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East Grand Forks man sentenced in 2021 murder

He has served 362 days so far, which will be credited toward his sentence.

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GRAND FORKS — An East Grand Forks man, who earlier this year pled guilty to the 2021 murder of Megan Gustafson, was sentenced to 35 years in state prison on Wednesday, Sept. 7, at the Grand Forks County Courthouse.

Ahmed Abdullahi will serve 85% of the sentence before he will become eligible for parole. He has served 362 days so far, which will be credited toward his sentence. He also owes $25,579 in restitution to the victim’s family. Upon release, Abdullahi will have five years of supervised probation. If his probation is revoked, it is likely he will end up serving the additional 25 years that were suspended from the proposed 60-year sentence.

Abdullahi was also charged with unlawful possession and theft of a firearm for this case, as well as attempted robbery with a weapon and theft in two additional cases. The sentences for those cases will be served concurrently. All additional fines and fees were waived from these cases.

On Sept. 12, 2021, the Grand Forks Police Department received a call about Abdullahi’s suspected connection to an attempted robbery that occurred at the Marathon gas station on Washington Street that morning. Police arrived at Gustafson’s in their search for Abdullahi and later, once the officers had left the home, they heard an argument between Abdullahi and Gustafson inside, the Herald previously reported. The door opened, and Gustafson stood in the doorway facing inside. There was a gunshot and scream, then Gustafson ran outside and collapsed onto the lawn, the Herald previously reported. She died of a gunshot wound to the neck.

Abdullahi previously corroborated this sequence of events in court, but made no statement on what led up to the shooting or how he knew Gustafson.

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Many of Gustafson’s loved ones made victim impact statements. Multiple speakers expressed anguish over the ways they believed the justice system had failed Gustafson. Abdullahi has many prior criminal charges, in both North Dakota and Minnesota, but had served minimal time prior to the murder. Gustafson’s family lamented the possibility that Gustafson could have survived if Abdullahi had been put away for prior felony charges.

Carmell Mattison, with the Grand Forks County state’s attorney office, said based on Abdullahi’s criminal record, he was on “a predictable” path.

“The defendant has been given more breaks than probably warranted,” she said. Abdullahi has had probation revoked more than once in the past.

Abdullahi’s legal counsel, Tyler Morrow, asked for Abdullahi’s sentence to be reduced to 20 years based on the argument that similar crimes in the state have resulted in lesser sentences. This request was denied by the judge, Tyler Knudson.

When Abdullahi spoke, he apologized to the victim’s family.

“I miss her. I think about her. I wish she was still here,” he said.

He also stated he doesn’t know what happened; he was drunk and on drugs at the time.

Gustafson’s family and friends all disagreed with the plea agreement. They argued Abdullahi showed no remorse and would very likely reoffend.

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“I agree with the family,” Knudson said. “I’m not sure if you understand what you did, fully, sir.”

One of Gustafson’s grandmothers, Valerie Tronnes, addressed the judge, “I really hope you can do the most on his sentence, because we’re sentenced for life.”

Last Friday, Sept. 2, was Gustafson’s birthday. She would have been 29. Gustafson’s daughter wrote a letter that Gustafson’s mother read aloud. The beginning read, “Dear Judge, I want you to know that he took something very, very, very important to me.” The child also wrote, “He puts holes in my heart.”

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