Judge Cherie Clark of Southeast District Court in Jamestown handed down a much harsher sentence Monday than recommended by the prosecution and defense in a case involving theft by deception of adoption fees.
"This is one of the most abusive cases I've seen," Clark said during a change of plea and sentencing hearing Monday. "She (Betty Jo Krenz) took from vulnerable citizens hoping to have children."
Krenz, who is age 47 or 48, of Woodworth, N.D., was accused of taking money in 2017 from a Medford, Ore., couple under the guise of facilitating an adoption for them. The couple said they'd been trying to adopt a child for 18 years, according to authorities.
The child that Krenz presented as available for adoption was never available for adoption.
A warrant for Krenz's arrest was issued April 10, and Krenz surrendered to authorities on Aug. 1.
Krenz entered an Alford plea Monday to the charges, meaning she acknowledged there was enough evidence to convict her but did not admit guilt.
Krenz was sentenced to four years in prison on a charge of theft of property valued at more than $1,000 but less than $10,000, a Class C felony. Krenz was also placed on 18 months supervised probation and ordered to pay restitution that will be determined over the next 60 days.
Clark also sentenced Krenz to 30 days in the Stutsman County Correctional Center on a charge of theft of property valued at less than $500, a Class B misdemeanor. The charge involved Krenz obtaining pepper spray meant for a charity.
The sentences are to be served consecutively.
The joint recommendation of Dana Sims, assistant Stutsman County state's attorney, and William Skees, Krenz's attorney, had been for one year and one day in the Stutsman County Correctional Center with all but nine months suspended.
Autym Burke, the person Krenz dealt with regarding a possible adoption, gave a victim impact statement. She said Krenz had deceived her in many ways.
"It was a game for Betty Jo (Krenz) for her amusement," Burke said.
Amber Schulz, who identified herself as Krenz's oldest daughter, also gave a victim impact statement, saying she trusted strangers she met on the internet more than Krenz.
"I want my life back," Schulz said. "I'm sick of dealing with it."
Skees said the case was a unique situation where Krenz started out to do the right thing.
"She tried," he said. "When things fell through she fell back on lies and deceit."
The agreement between the attorneys, along with the dismissal of a charge of unauthorized use of identifying information, a Class C felony, had been reached Monday morning in a conference prior to the scheduled start of a jury trial before Clark.
Krenz was taken into custody at the conclusion of the hearing and is being held in the Stutsman County Correctional Center.