BESSEMER — Kenneth Wayne Peters, 50, of Bessemer, was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for killing his wife, 79-year-old Ethel Grzena-Peters, in August.
Peters was found guilty of first-degree murder and second-degree vulnerable adult abuse on May 1 by a jury following a lengthy trial.
First-degree murder carries maximum punishment of life without parole in prison, while vulnerable adult abuse carries a maximum sentence of 15 years.
Gogebic County Circuit Court Judge Roy Gotham said the case was “highly circumstantial,” and commended both prosecutor Richard Adams and defense attorney Rudy Perhalla for their work, the jury and Det. Jorge Cruz, of the Gogebic County Sheriff’s Department.
Grzena-Peters’ body was found in Watersmeet Township after she was reported missing a week earlier. The cause of death was ruled to be hypothermia. During the trial, Adams said Peters left his wife in the woods to die after having frustrations with her dementia.
Gotham said evidence showed Peters was “strongly motivated” to get rid of his wife.
“You caused her great fear and desperation that night,” Gotham said. “You will spend the rest of your life in prison, and when you are at an old age, your living conditions will be much better than the conditions that you created for her.”
Gotham discussed the dangers of prison, saying it could be a scary place.
“When you are afraid, think of Ethel in that moment, and the fear that you caused her,” Gotham said.
Grzena-Peters’ daughter, Milia Nivison, spoke about how her and her family’s world came to a stop after her mother’’s murder.
“This cruel betrayal that you have done is a coward’s act,” Nivison said, “however, coward is too good of a word for you.”
Nivison spoke about how Peters’ was “scheming and twisting” her mother’s possessions, and asked that he receive the maximum punishment for his crimes.
“You are a lazy, greedy, selfish, bottom-feeder,” she said. “It’s because of you that I will never get to see her, touch her or tell her that I love her ever again.”
Peters did not speak on his own behalf, but signed paperwork in the courtroom to appeal the decision.