Haron Joyner sentenced to life in wife’s homicide, can petition for release in 40 years

Haron Joyner was sentenced to life in prison for the death of his wife, Jessica.

Erik Daily, La Crosse Tribune

Jessica Joyner spent her final moments on an apartment floor, her neighbor begging her to stay alive and her children walking through her blood.

Minutes earlier, she had escaped her apartment and the man who attacked her with a knife: her husband.

“The fear Jessica must have felt is unimaginable,” La Crosse County Assistant District Attorney Justine Suleski said. “It’s so clear Jessica wanted to live.”

She died about an hour later, at 12:41 a.m. March 7, 2016.

La Crosse County Circuit Judge Scott Horne on Friday sentenced Haron Joyner, 36, to life imprisonment with release eligibility in 40 years for the murder carried out in front of five children.

“On a daily basis, something reminds them of what happened a year ago,” said the foster mother of two of the children.

Late March 6, Jessica used her cellphone to record a video of Joyner approaching her in the kitchen of the family’s apartment at 1320 S. Fifth Ave. while five children younger than 12 looked on.

“Ready?” he asked. “Ready?”

Then “f— you, f— you, f— you,” he said as he swung a folding knife into his wife’s temple, arm and neck, the fatal wound that severed her jugular vein and carotid artery.

Jessica, 29, ran to the unit across the hall and collapsed in a pool of blood surrounded by the hysterical children.

Joyner walked calmly from the apartment as his wife was dying on the floor. He called 911 to turn himself in, and then changed his mind and stopped at the La Crosse Tribune, where he worked in the packaging department at the time. Police arrested him early the next morning when they found him inside a car parked in the 3600 block of South 29th Court.

During the trial, prosecutors argued he acted with the intent to kill, while his attorney said he acted recklessly and asked the jury to consider a lesser homicide charge.

“This was a senseless, utterly avoidable, tragic act of violence. It was horrific,” defense attorney Michael Covey said. “He can’t really explain why he did what he did. To this day, he can’t wrap his head around his actions. All I can say is that it wasn’t premeditated.”

A jury found Joyner guilty of first-degree intentional homicide on Dec. 13 after just 25 minutes of deliberations.

Suleski asked the judge impose a life sentence without release eligibility. Joyner committed the murder after learning his wife planned to divorce him.

“This had everything to do with Haron Joyner being unable to control his wife,” Suleski said.

Joyner stole a mother and sister during a selfish act that orphaned her children, Jessica’s sister wrote in a statement to the court.

“Now she won’t be there for when I go to prom or my wedding,” one of her daughters wrote in a letter. “I love you, Mom.”

Covey asked the judge make Joyner eligible for release after 20 years, citing his minor criminal history, lack of premeditation and remorse.

Joyner’s family told the court that he moved to Wisconsin from New York to be with his wife and their blended family.

“My son is a beautiful man, OK?” said his mother, Linda Joyner-Rembert. “He is not a monster. He just made a bad choice. That’s all.”

Joyner in his statement to the court accepted responsibility for his conduct and asked for a second chance to help raise his two children.

“My wife, she didn’t deserve what I did to her,” he said. “I’m truly sorry for what I’ve done. I confess my sins.”

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Police and courts reporter

Anne Jungen covers law enforcement and the criminal justice system in La Crosse County. She joined the Tribune reporting staff in December 2005. You can contact her directly at ajungen@lacrossetribune.com or 608-791-8224.

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