CARLTON — The Korby family didn't celebrate Christmas last year. They say it'll be hard to find joy during the holiday season ever again.
They spent the holidays last year planning and attending a funeral for John Korby, a 36-year-old father of six who was fatally shot on the Fond du Lac Reservation in Cloquet on Dec. 23.
His killer, 34-year-old Wayne Joseph Bosto, was supposed to be a friend, said the victim's mother, Gail Korby, who is dreading the first full winter and holiday season since her son's death.
"They say we're supposed to live day-by-day," she told a judge Friday, "but these day-by-days have been such a struggle."
About two dozen family members and friends filled one side of the Carlton County courtroom for Bosto's sentencing hearing. A few carried a large fabric banner containing a blown-up photo of Korby through the courthouse halls.
Bosto, who pleaded guilty in July to intentional second-degree murder, received a guideline sentence of 35½ years from 6th Judicial District Judge Robert Macaulay.
The hearing was fairly routine — the prison term was mutually recommended under the plea agreement reached between Bosto and the Carlton County Attorney's Office — but several family members delivered emotional victim-impact statements.
James Korby told the court that his brother loved his six children and his entire family.
"John was a warrior," James Korby said. "He was always trying his best and fighting through his struggles in life the best he could."
Gail Korby said she could never understand or forgive Bosto for his actions. She wondered what could have led him to turn the gun on his friend — adding that his actions destroyed two families.
"For the rest of your family, I'm sorry they have to go through this," she said. "Our families are close. I think about your mom and your dad every day."
Bosto admitted at his plea hearing that he fatally shot John Korby inside a residence at 1787 Wolf Ridge Road in Cloquet just two days before Christmas. He acknowledged that he shot Korby with intent during an argument, but said he couldn't recall what it was about or how many times he fired the weapon.
Police said two other people were in another room at the time and recalled hearing five gunshots. One witness entered the room and reported seeing Bosto standing over Korby with a pistol and firing a round at the victim's head.
Bosto, who had both methamphetamine and marijuana in his system, was arrested a short time later when responding officers found him walking down a nearby road.
Rainna Korby, the oldest of John Korby's six children, said in a letter read aloud to the court that she learned of her father's death while en route to see him at a Duluth hospital after she learned of the shooting.
"I couldn't make it in time," she said. "It was like a really bad dream. I couldn't even begin to tell you how I felt."
She said her dad would be proud of her — in the nine months since his death, she graduated high school, moved into her own place and has a baby on the way.
"I can't tell my dad that he was going to be a grandpa," she wrote.
In another letter, 15-year-old Rateah Korby told the court that she and her siblings each have a "piece of them missing."
She said her dad used to send her a text message every day, just to tell her she's beautiful or remind her that he loved her.
"There is never going to be another call, another 'I love you,' another hug," she said in the letter to the court.
Bosto looked straight ahead as the statements were read, displaying no apparent emotion. He declined comment before receiving the sentence.
Macaulay last week denied Bosto's request to withdraw the plea, rejecting his claim that he was under "extreme emotional distress" brought on by the potential of a first-degree murder indictment.
The 426-month sentence is a guideline term for Bosto, who had numerous prior felony convictions. He must serve at least two-thirds of the sentence — nearly 24 years — in prison before he is eligible for supervised release.
Carlton County prosecutor Jeffrey Boucher and defense attorney Kevin Cornwell both simply urged the judge to accept the agreement, noting that nothing would bring Korby back.
"You can see the damage this has caused to the families and to the community," Boucher said. "I'm inspired by their resilience. We're seeing the seeds of healing, but there is no sentence that can fill the holes in their hearts left by Mr. Bosto."