MILWAUKEE -- Robert Rozewicz, 42, was sentenced to serve life in prison in connection with the murder of his own mother -- a mandatory sentence he already faced. The judge ruled Friday he'll be eligible for parole after 20 years. During the sentencing hearing, family members said a systemic failure is the real cause of this tragedy.
"As I grew older and began to understand more and more about the way people work, I knew that Robert wasn't the same as you and I," Sarah Keuer, Robert Rozewicz's cousin said.
Sarah Keuer testified that she's known for a long time that her cousin has mental health problems. Relatives said despite a well-documented history, Rozewicz never got the help he needed.
"Our system for helping those with mental illness does not work in the capacity that it should be working," Sarah Keuer said.
Robert Rozewicz was convicted earlier this month of strangling his 68-year-old mother, Julie, in their Hales Corners home in March of 2016. Relatives said the threats were serious,but Julie wouldn't put her son out on the street.
"One night, he burst into her bedroom demanding money for chocolate milk. He continued ranting and throwing things until 3 a.m.," Jean Keuer, Julie Rozewicz's sister said.
Rozewicz initially pleaded no contest to the charge of first-degree intentional homicide. Rozewicz hoped Judge Mark Sanders would find him not guilty by reason of mental disease of defect but Sanders rejected that claim, finding although Rozewicz was mentally unfit during the crime, he knew what he was doing because he hid the body in a garbage can and moved his mother's car to a Pick 'n Save parking lot.
Relatives said Friday the incident never would have happened had Rozewicz received proper treatment.
"Yes, my aunt died from physical injury carried out by my cousin but it was the broken mental health system that killed her," Sarah Keuer said.
Relatives and the attorney for Rozewicz asked Sanders to allow for the eligibility of parole after 20 years. Sanders issued that very sentence, calling it "one of the saddest cases" he's seen on the bench. Rozewicz spoke up to air his concerns with the sentence.
"Now that I'm stable on my medication, I gotta wait 20 years to be released for something I'm already stable on?" Rozewicz asked at the sentencing hearing.
Rozewicz acknowledged that when he doesn't take his medication, he gets into a volatile state.
"When I have an episode, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. It just happens," Rozewicz said.
"Part of it is getting stabilized on your medication but that's not all of it. Part of it is supervision and making sure that, in the future, things go more smoothly," Judge Sanders said in his reply to Rozewicz.