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Nebraska man found guilty of manslaughter in fiancé’s death

December 15, 2021 GMT

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A federal jury on Wednesday found a northeastern Nebraska man guilty of voluntary manslaughter and obstruction of justice in the killing of his fiancé last year on the Winnebago Indian Reservation.

Jonathan Rooney, 27, faces as many as 20 years in prison on the obstruction of justice by destruction of evidence charge and 15 years for voluntary manslaughter in the death of 22-year-old Kozee Decorah, the Sioux City Journal reported.

Rooney had been charged with second-degree murder, but the jury instead found him guilty of the lesser sentence of voluntary manslaughter, sparing him from the possibility of life in prison.

“Part of the reason manslaughter was so upsetting is it put some of the blame for Kozee’s death on her,” Stacey Schinko, one of Decorah’s relatives, told the newspaper. “It was really a slap in the face today that (jurors) couldn’t see it the way we see it.”

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Officers responding to a call for help from Decorah in May 2020 found her burning remains in a fire outside a reservation cabin. Decorah had told officers that she, Rooney and their infant son had become stuck on a muddy road. Rooney was found sleeping in the cabin with the couple’s 4-month-old son.

Rooney told investigators that he and Decorah had argued and she had hit him with something before he pushed her out of the cabin, locked the door and fell asleep. He didn’t wake up, he said, until officers entered the cabin and roused him.

Rooney’s sentencing is scheduled for March 11 in U.S. District Court in Omaha.