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Homicide victim's family relieved after killer receives 65 years in prison

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Allen County Courthouse

An Allen County judge ruled that 23-year-old Valerie Hardiek will serve the maximum sentence of 65 years in prison Friday.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) -- An Allen County judge ruled that 23-year-old Valerie Hardiek will serve the maximum sentence of 65 years in prison Friday.

Hardiek testified that she shot 20-year-old Shelby Vonholdt on June 21, 2021 with the intent to kill her.

“With everything that was said, with everything that was presented to the court, all the evidence, I do believe the judge made a sound decision,” Vonholdt’s father Toby Vonholdt said.

Both he and Vonholdt’s mother Shana Pineault choked back tears while reading statements to an Allen County judge Friday morning, pleading for their daughter’s killer to serve life in prison.

“Nothing will ever bring Shelby back and there is no really certain amount of time that’s going to make anything better… but I think that 65 is sufficient,” Pineault said.

They do not understand why Hardiek would kill their daughter.

They do not think the women knew each other very well.

“I don’t think they were friends that hung out together - they were just more FaceBook acquaintances. I don’t really know how it happened. It just did,” Pineault said.

Despite their shallow relationship, Hardiek found a handgun, drove to Vonholdt’s home, shot her eight times and fled to Ohio.

The defense argued she was driven to violence because her step-brother abused her as a child but between her failed prior rehabilitation attempts and her criminal record, the judge did not deem her trauma as a viable excuse.

He did take mental illness into account when bringing down the sentence, though.

“I believe anybody who pulls a gun and shoots somebody else is mentally ill… penitentiaries are in no shortage of people that are mentally ill,” Vonholdt said.

Vonholdt says he forgives Hardiek - not for her sake but for his.

While Hardiek will likely spend the rest of her life in prison, Pineault says she’ll spend the rest of her life hanging onto memories of her daughter.

She wears a pink infinity necklace filled with her daughter’s ashes around her neck at all times, committing to never forget her daughter.

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