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Northeast Minnesota murder victim remembered as her killer sentenced to 48 years

"She really was a beautiful person," Kristen Bicking's twin sister said Monday. "She would help anyone. She saw the best in everyone, and that’s what I'm going to do.

Young woman with long brown hair pictured with white dog
Kristen Ann Bicking
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VIRGINIA, Minn. — Kristen Bicking was "gorgeous" and "just beaming" as she spent a day kayaking on the lake at the family's cabin in May 2021, her mother recalled.

The 32-year-old was getting calls that day from her ex-boyfriend, Derek Edward Malevich, but she ignored them, Karen Bicking recalled. The mother didn't know about the history of domestic violence in their relationship, but she knew her daughter was on a path to a brighter future.

Malevich,Derek.jpg
Derek Edward Malevich

"When I dropped her off, I said, 'You know, sometimes you're just better off being alone,'" Karen Bicking recalled in a Virginia, Minnesota, courtroom Monday, Nov. 28. "That was my last statement to her."

Little did she know at the time that Malevich would lure Kristen to his Virginia apartment one final time, ending her life in a brutal assault.

"It left a huge hole in my heart," Karen Bicking told a judge. "Hopefully in time it’ll heal. I really don’t know."

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Judge Andrew Peterson granted the family's request for a maximum sentence, ordering Malevich to serve just over 48 ½ years for Bicking's murder.

With credit for time served and good behavior, he will serve a little more than 32 years in custody — roughly the same amount of time the Bicking family had with their loved one. It was a symbolic gesture that was not lost on St. Louis County prosecutor Chris Florey.

"Sentencing him to anything less would be rewarding the perpetrator," he told the court.

Malevich, 42, pleaded guilty Oct. 13 to a count of intentional second-degree murder in the death of Bicking at his Virginia apartment May 12, 2021.

Malevich told the court that he had difficulty remembering the full circumstances of the incident because he was impaired by methamphetamine, but he did not dispute the findings of an investigation conducted by the Virginia Police Department and Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Attorneys suggested that Malevich lured Bicking to the scene just hours after Lake Superior Drug and Violent Crime Task Force investigators executed a warrant at his apartment, seizing roughly 120 grams of meth.

Malevich said he had been in an on-and-off relationship with Bicking for about two years, and he was already facing a pending domestic assault charge after a September 2020 incident in which he reportedly shoved, punched and choked the same victim.

Malevich agreed that there was an aggravating factor present in the case: Bicking was treated with "particular cruelty," warranting a statutory maximum 40-year sentence on the homicide charge. He also pleaded guilty to an aggravated first-degree witness tampering charge on the basis that the state is unable to move forward with the earlier domestic assault case as a result of Bicking's murder.

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Malevich repeatedly apologized in a brief statement prior to receiving his sentence Monday.

"I’m deeply sorry to the Bicking family," he said. "There’s nothing I can say. I wish we could have her back. This is devastating.”

But the statements of three family members resonated with the judge, prosecutors and even the defense.

"My twin sister Kristen was on track to be healthy and sober and, most importantly, really happy," Kara Renny said. "She loved my daughter so much. She was such a great auntie. We will have pictures and memories, but my daughter won’t get to know my sister."

Her brother, Derek Bicking, added: "This tragedy has affected my life drastically. Please consider the maximum sentence possible for Derek so my family and I can have closure."

Family members said Bicking had a "hard life" but always maintained a warm personality and was on a better path in life, having gone through treatment.

"She really was a beautiful person," Renny said. "She would help anyone. She saw the best in everyone, and that’s what I'm going to do. I don’t think Derek is evil. I think the drugs made him evil. I’m at peace knowing she’s at peace. He needs to be held accountable, though."

Defense attorney Bruce Williams said his client accepted responsibility. He asked for a slightly lesser sentence — roughly 46 years — noting that, even then, Malevich wouldn't be out of prison until he was 74.

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"If anyone could go back in time and swap his life for Kristi, Derek Malevich would be first in line," Williams said."

But Florey noted that Malevich already received mercy in the form of having a premeditated first-degree murder indictment dismissed under the terms of the plea agreement. Had he been convicted of that offense, he would have faced life without parole.

He noted that Malevich had a history of domestic violence with two girlfriends, attempted to hide evidence, lied to investigators about the circumstances of the killing, and even suggested that he should be "rewarded" for his actions.

“He was a victim in his own eyes," the prosecutor said.

The events started around 3:40 p.m. May 11, 2021, when task force investigators searched Malevich's apartment, 104 Fifth St. S. He was taken to the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office and provided a statement in which he speculated that "it must've been my ex-girlfriend who ratted me out," attorneys said.

The court was provided with copies of text messages that showed Malevich contacting Bicking shortly after 7 p.m., indicating he urgently needed to speak with her, saying it was "the most important thing in the world right now." Home security footage showed Malevich and Bicking entering the apartment together, attorneys indicated, and no one else was present that evening.

Florey said a home security camera inside Malevich's apartment captured him making multiple stabbing motions at the victim. He indicated Malevich actually left the apartment at one point, returned and later resumed the stabbing motions.

Malevich called 911 at 2:19 a.m. May 12, stating he had just come home and was attacked by an intruder, who he stabbed in self-defense before discovering it was Bicking. Malevich fled the scene before police arrived; he was arrested later at a nearby hotel. Surveillance footage also showed him tossing Bicking's phone in a dumpster.

A medical examiner concluded that Bicking was stabbed five times in the back, with one puncturing a lung. She also had severe head trauma from apparently having been bludgeoned with a bloody dumbbell that was found in the apartment. Her injuries were severe enough, attorneys said, that her body had to be identified by her tattoos.

Malevich entered a Norgaard plea, in which he said his drug impairment prevented him from fully testifying to the circumstances but acknowledged that there was sufficient evidence for a jury to convict him of the charges. He waived any right to claim intoxication or self-defense, but avoided the possibility of facing a first-degree murder indictment.

Malevich was already serving a 65-month sentence at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Rush City after pleading guilty in March to a first-degree controlled substance charge that resulted from the May 11 search. However, that term will run concurrent with the sentence handed down Monday.

Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or tolsen@duluthnews.com.
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