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Murderer sentenced to life in prison for killing McKenzie Bridge woman

The victim was stabbed more than 30 times.

Posted: Nov 21, 2018 11:23 AM
Updated: Nov 21, 2018 5:03 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Robert T. Connelly, 49, was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday for killing Ronni Blair in McKenzie Bridge in January 2017.

Blair was stabbed more than 30 times.

Connelly will be eligible for parole after 25 years in prison, but Lane County Circuit Court Judge Debra Vogt said Connelly is unlikely to be paroled, given his violent criminal history. If he is paroled from prison, he will be on supervised release for the rest of his life.

Connelly was also found guilty of arson for setting Blair’s house on fire in McKenzie Bridge after he killed her, in an effort to destroy evidence of the murder. He lived in a travel trailer on property adjacent to Blair’s home.

The crime was committed nine days after Blair’s husband died of cancer.

Connelly was also found guilty of two counts of theft. He had taken cameras, a radio, collectible coins and a handgun from Blair’s house.

"The evidence lead the investigation in this case, and the Lane County Sheriff's Office along with Oregon State Police did a fantastic job on following that evidence to Mr. Connelly and ultimately making an arrest and getting a conviction in the case," Lane County Prosecutor Chris Parosa said.

During Wednesday’s sentencing, Parosa said Connelly had a prior criminal history which included two violent sexual assaults. Parosa said Connelly is an ongoing danger to women and to the community.

Parosa read a victim impact statement from Blair’s sister, which asked for a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

"She was a free spirit, insightful, curious and full of promise and the desire to help others," Blair's sister wrote. "She was wrenched from our family, and despite my desire for compassion, I cannot forgive Mr. Connelly. My daughter will never know her aunt, and I will be forever plagued by the knowledge of her untimely death."

Connelly declined to give a statement during the sentencing hearing.

A jury found Connelly guilty last Thursday of murder, arson and two counts of theft after deliberating for about three hours.

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