Kogut confronts daughter's killer at sentencing

By Joleen Ferris

(WKTV) - People who didn't know Alexandra Kogut and had nothing to do with her murder left a Rochester courtroom in tears Tuesday, after Kogut's mother, Becky Kogut, described the depth of her pain and loss at the sentencing of the man who killed her daughter.

Becky Kogut stood just a few feet from Clayton Whittemore at Monroe County Court on Tuesday. Both cried as Kogut described the hole left in her life and that of her husband and younger daughter.  Kogut described dropping off her daughter, Alex, at SUNY Brockport in August  2012, fighting the nagging feeling that it would be the last time she would ever see her daughter. The feeling prompted her to come back and hug and kiss her daughter again after walking away.

Kogut described being overcome with a feeling of dread and anxiety the night her daughter was killed in her SUNY Brockport dorm room. She said she tried numerous times to call both her daughter and Whittemore, who was visiting Alex at college. When Whittemore finally answered at 2:30 am, Kogut demanded to talk to her daughter. The line went dead, and that, says Kogut, is when she felt her daughter leave her. 

Becky Kogut  told Whittemore and the court Tuesday that she went to Whittemore's father's house on her daughter's birthday in January and shattered 50 purple Christmas bulbs on his lawn, purple being the color associated with the fight against domestic violence.  She says she left a hockey stick with a purple ribbon on it on the elder Whittemore's porch and a ribbon on his mailbox. Clayton Whittemore played hockey. 

She said she'd sit in her car in his driveway and beep her horn.  Clayton Whittemore's sister testified at trial that their father was extremely physically and emotionally abusive toward her and her brother.  The defense tried to weave this abuse into a defense for Clayton Whittemore.  Becky Kogut said that, on the anniversary of her daughter's death, she took a newspaper article about Alex to the elder Whittemore's house and threw it to his feet, saying, "that's my daughter." 

She then told Whittemore he should turn himself into police because he, too, was to blame for her daughter's death.

"I just wanted Clayton to know what I did for him," said Kogut. She said if she'd been around during Whittemore's abusive childhood, she'd have tried to help him, and chastised the adults who did nothing to remove a young Clayton from an allegedly abusive father.

Kogut said she trusted Whittemore so much that when her husband shouted, "Oh my God, Becky, he killed her!"  Kogut replied, "Who?"

"She had a care package ready for Alex sitting on her porch, so that Clayton could take it to Alex that weekend.  They had dated for almost two years. There was love and trust and this murder was the violation of that love and trust," said prosecutor and Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley.

The judge told Whittemore that his rage was simmering for years.  Of Whittemore's statement to police that he saw Kogut's suffering and chose to put her out of her misery, the judge said, "You call an ambulance. You get help. She wasn't some animal".

The judge sentenced Clayton Whittemore to the maximum of 25 years to life in prison. 

The Koguts left court without making a public statement outside the courtroom.  Defense Attorney Mark Curley declined comment, but has said prior that if his attempt to have the verdict set aside failed, he'd appeal to a higher court.  The trial judge on Tuesday denied the motion to set aside the verdict. 

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