A San Luis Obispo man with Asperger syndrome was sentenced to a 13-year prison term for beating and choking a 90-year-old woman unconscious nearly four years ago.
Brennan Fulfer, 26, severely beat and strangled Mildred Maddelein with an American flag in her mobile home near Laguna Lake Golf Course in San Luis Obispo on Aug. 14, 2009.
She survived the attack but could no longer live on her own and spent her last years in an assisted living facility. She later died from ill health unrelated to the attack.
In San Luis Obispo Superior Court on Wednesday, Fulfer, wearing a black-and-white striped jumpsuit, kept his eyes cast to the ground and avoided looking at Maddelein’s family, who sat in the front row of the courtroom.
Linda Palmer, her daughter, read an emotional statement prior to Judge Dodie Harman sentencing Fulfer to prison.
“My mom forgave you, and I am going to try to learn how,” said Palmer.
Palmer told Fulfer that he had prevented her from being by her mother’s side when she died, noting that she had been at a meeting with the District Attorney’s Office about the case when her mom passed away.
“I am sorry that the system failed you, that your mom failed you, and that you failed us,” Palmer said.
Fulfer’s defense attorney Patricia Ashbaugh made a statement on his behalf: “He feels so very, very sorry for all of the pain and suffering of the victim and the victim’s family.”
According to court testimony, Fulfer had experienced homicidal thoughts for weeks before the incident and laid out a plan to commit a murder.
After breaking into Mildred Maddelein’s residence, he struck her several times and attempted to smother her with an American flag before choking her.
The victim was saved by her Life Alert device.
Fulfer showed up at the San Luis Obispo Police Department later that day, where he told police, “I think I just killed someone.”
Despite the attack being his first offense, the crime showed a level of planning and sophistication, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
“He weighed who he was going to single out, describing how he wouldn’t have chosen a person with a dog, or a Cal Poly male student, but maybe a female student who was coming back late from a party. He was very methodical, not impulsive,” according to a pre-sentence report.
Fulfer, a former Cuesta College student, was found competent to stand trial by a jury in September. The case dragged on for nearly four years and dozens of hearings because the issues of autism and competency were rare and difficult to debate.