FERGUS FALLS, Minn. — A 24-year-old Pine River, Minn., man has been sentenced to 51 years after beating a woman and her son to death in west-central Minnesota.

William Lynn Hillman looked down silently Tuesday, Jan. 26, from the Otter Tail County jail as Judge Kevin Miller handed down two consecutive sentences of 306 months, one each for the 2018 deaths of 42-year-old Denise McFadzen and her son, 21-year-old Dalton McFadzen, at their mobile home in Frazee, Minn. Hillman was found guilty in November of two counts of second-degree murder.

“Mr. Hillman has to be held accountable for both, and that is what is going to happen here today,” Miller said as he handed down the sentence.

Hillman said in court he was sorry for killing two members of the family with whom he had been staying up to the murders on April 17, 2018. The McFadzens allowed Hillman to move in with them after he was released from a treatment facility in November 2017. He was sent to the facility after a Cass County (N.D.) judge found his mental illness made him unfit for trial for an assault on his mother in 2016.

Denise Mcfadzen and Dalton Mcfadzen
Denise Mcfadzen and Dalton Mcfadzen

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The McFadzens knew Hillman from when he was young and wanted to help him “get a job and get back on his feet,” according to court documents. Leading up to the killings, Hillman was acting strangely, the court documents said.

He used a pipe wrench to kill Dalton McFadzen while the 21-year-old was in his bed, court records said. He then bludgeoned Denise McFadzen while she was outside smoking a cigarette, according to prosecutors.

Otter Tail County Attorney Michelle Eldien described the killings as cruel and torturous. She recommended the consecutive sentences of 306 months each, noting two lives were taken.

Hillman’s defense previously argued he was not culpable for his actions because of his mental illness. He told investigators he attacked the McFadzens because he thought they worshiped Satan and were trying to steal his "life source," according to court documents.

Nicole McFadzen — Denise's daughter and Dalton's sister — said her family does not worship Satan and goes to church. Because of Hillman, her children lost a grandmother and uncle, she said.

“You are a sick monster,” Nicole McFadzen said in a statement, which was read by Eldien. “You will rot in hell for what you did.”

Hillman said consecutive sentences are appropriate, according to his defense attorney, Steve Bergeson. The defense argued for a downward departure to 532 months, or about 44 years, because Hillman’s mental illness was a factor in the case. He also argued Hillman showed remorse.

Miller acknowledged Hillman’s mental illness, but remorse was not enough to mitigate the prosecution’s recommendations, the judge said. Hillman attacked the McFadzens in their home after being invited to stay there, Miller said.

“I simply cannot make those findings,” he said of the defense’s request for a reduced sentence.

Hillman could be released after serving 34 years if he has good behavior in prison. The remaining third of his sentence would be served on supervised probation.