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Keri "KC" McClanahan

PARK CITY — After her husband punched her in the face in 2017, Keri "KC" McClanahan rushed to pack her bags and make the 24-hour drive from Phoenix to her sister's home in Washington State.

"She was scared the entire time that Anthony was going to track her down and find her on the way home," her sister Heather Gauf recalled Monday in a Park City courtroom. But her little sister made it there safely, where she stayed and hashed out a plan to distance herself from Anthony McClanahan, a former professional football player.

"She was in fear of him, but yet would still tried to help him in any way she could as they were beginning to separate their lives from one another," Gauf said. About two months later, on a visit to Park City, her sister had hoped to part with McClanahan on a decent note, according to Gauf, but her husband of less than a year instead took her life.

On Monday, the 48-year-old Anthony McClanahan was sentenced to at least 15 years and up to life in prison in the stabbing death his wife at the Park Regency.

Gauf said he had verbally abused her sister for a time before he became violent. She joined four of the young woman's other siblings Monday in recalling her as a playful, dedicated mother of two who was considering joining the U.S. Air Force and loved to run and snowboard. Through tears, they urged a judge to ensure McClanahan is never released from prison.

The youngest of 10 siblings, she can never again tend to her young daughter and son when they are sick or cheer their milestones in school and sports, said her sister Christine Schmitt.

"No graduations, no proms, no weddings. Something will always be missing for them. And part of them is gone," Schmitt said.

On Nov. 2, 2017, Anthony McClanahan, with blood on his face and hands, flagged down police outside the complex and told them that white men with black jackets attacked him and his wife, prosecutors said, but surveillance footage revealed no one matching that description. One officer testified that McClanahan appeared to fake a seizure while talking to police.

He pleaded guilty last month to murder, a first-degree-felony, two weeks after his former cellmate testified that he had confessed to stabbing his wife 16 to 20 times. A former Washington State University football player who played professionally in Canada in the 1990s and practiced with the Dallas Cowboys, McClanahan said he would use a history of concussions "to make it look like he had all these memory problems," according to the cellmate.

On Monday, a shackled McClanahan told the judge he loves and misses his slain wife, recalling her as unselfish and remembering the trips they took to Puerto Rico and Houston, Texas, to help hurricane victims.

"She was my soulmate. She was my rock," he said. "I can't take back what has happened. Hopefully I can remember everything so in time I can grieve my loss." He said he hopes her family can forgive him one day and said he would focus on treatment while in prison.

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Third District Judge Patrick Corum didn't buy the apology.

"I don't believe for a minute Mr. McClanahan is remorseful in any way," Corum said, adding he believes parole authorities will require him to remain in prison for life.

In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to seek the dismissal of a kidnapping case from October 2017, when they say he brought his young son from Arizona to Utah without permission.

Help for victims of domestic violence is available from a 24/7 hotline, 1-800-897-5465, and at udvc.org.