COLUMBUS (WCMH) — It was an extraordinary court proceeding. Judy Malinowski testified at the trial of her killer by way of a video deposition recorded six months before she died.
On Thursday, one day before his trial was set to begin, Michael Slager agreed to plead guilty to the aggravated murder of Malinowski. The prosecutor agreed to take the death penalty off the table and Slager was sentenced to life in prison with no chance for parole.
Malinowski’s mother, Bonnie Bowes, says that’s what her daughter wanted.
“Taking his life was not going to save hers and she really hoped he would be able to turn his life around incarcerated,” Bowes said.
Under questioning by Assistant Prosecutor Warren Edwards, Judy Malinowski testified about her struggle with an addiction to heroin. She said that on August 2, 2015, Slager drove her to a drug rehab program but that she declined to check in saying she was not ready.
Malinowski testified that she and Slager had argued, that she threw a cup of pop on him and that he retaliated with a can of gasoline from his truck.
“He ran around to me and started pouring gasoline - started up my neck and worked his way down,” Malinowski said. “He pulled a lighter out of his pocket and he started walking towards me and I just remember crying for help and he lit me on fire.... I remember screaming for help and I remember looking over and seeing him staring at me with a look in his face like it was just...pure evil.”
Malinowski, a mother of two, survived for close to two years. In that time Slager was convicted of aggravated arson and felonious assault.
After Malinowski died in June, 2017, Slager was indicted for aggravated murder with death penalty specifications.
Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said the judge’s ruling earlier this year that Malinowski’s video testimony would be admitted for Slager’s trial was significant.
“I think that had a major impact on the decision of the defendant, the fact that that video would have been played for the jury,” O’Brien said.
Defense attorney Mark Collins says Slager has consistently expressed a desire to help the healing process.
“It came down to a point where, ‘I need to be alive to guarantee that I’m alive for my children and for my family and try to help the Malinowskis heal,'” Collins said.
Slager did briefly apologize in court to both his own and the victim’s families.
“It’s commendable that he did turn and look at us and say he was sorry,” Bowes said. “Judy was such a kind-hearted person. She would be, ‘Mom that’s acceptable, that’s what I wanted’.”