COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (CBS4) — A Commerce City man has been sentenced to 48 years in prison for beating his wife to death.

Derek Johnston (credit: 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office)

Derek Michael Johnston, 38, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced on Thursday.

Johnston called police on Sept. 6 saying that his wife had fallen backwards down the stairs the night before, that he had helped her into bed and woke up at 6:30 a.m. to find she was unconscious. He did not call 911 for four hours.

Commerce City police found Melissa Ehrmann, 38, unconscious in bed, with ice packs around her body, in the couple’s home at 14802 E. 119th Avenue on Sept. 6. Investigators said she was “beaten from head to toe.”

The couple’s 19-month-old son also was in the home, prosecutors said.

Ehrmann was transported to University Hospital where she remained unresponsive with no brain function for four weeks until life support was removed on Oct. 6.

Adams County District Judge Don Quick imposed the maximum 48 year sentence, saying that in his 31 years in the criminal justice system, he had never seen bruising like he saw on Ehrmann’s body.

Prosecutors quoted Judge Quick as saying the brutality of the beating and the number of blows required to inflict that amount of trauma were “unfathomable.”

There was a history of domestic violence in the home. Police were called four times by coworkers in July and August requesting welfare checks on Ehrmann after they saw signs of abuse, according to prosecutors.



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