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Relative of woman killed by Michelle Kosilek blasts judge for making state pay for sex-change operation

The niece of the woman Michelle Kosilek murdered when she was known as Robert Kosilek said Thursday she does not want Kosilek to get sex change surgery at taxpayers’ expense and that she wants the state to appeal a federal judge’s decision ordering the procedure.

“As far as I’m concerned, he deserves nothing,’’ Laura J. Brandel said in a telephone interview. “If he wants to attempt suicide and take his own life, let him. It might sound cold to you, but it’s cold what he did to her.’’

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Brandel said her family is also working with Senator Scott Brown to somehow prevent Kosilek from getting the surgery that US District Judge Mark Wolf ruled this week is a medical necessity.

The judge’s decision also provoked an uproar at the State House, where Senate minority leader Bruce Tarr and 49 other lawmakers sent a letter to the state correction commissioner, urging him to appeal Wolf’s ruling.

Kosilek, now in her early 60s, was transitioning to a female identity by 1990. She murdered her wife, Cheryl, in their Mansfield home on May 20 of that year. (Under Globe policy, Kosilek is being referred to as a woman because that is the gender with which she identifies.)

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Brandel said she was furious that Wolf had ordered the state Department of Correction to pay for sex reassignment surgery for Kosilek, who strangled Brandel’s aunt with a wire, nearly beheading her.

“I was sickened, outraged, and disgusted,’’ after learning about the order, Brandel said. “He’s a freak . . . wanting a sex change and expecting everybody to pay for it. We’ve paid enough. He got his name changed. He’s gotten his hormone treatments. He doesn’t deserve anything for what he did.’’

‘That’s perfectly normal’

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Kosilek has legally changed her first name to Michelle. She has been held in a men’s prison in Norfolk while taking hormones and developing female physical qualities. In his 127-page order, Wolf wrote that the surgery is the only adequate care for the inmate’s gender identity disorder and that Correction Department doctors have prescribed the surgery.

The letter from lawmakers to Correction Commissioner Luis S. Spencer, who is being sued because his department has custody of Kosilek, said, “Clearly, the Eighth Amendment provides important protections when a person enters our prison system, but it cannot be fairly said to require the state to accommodate every last need and want of convicted murderers.”

The letter, signed by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, said that giving Kosilek the surgery is an affront to the woman he murdered and to her surviving relatives. The authors also rejected Kosilek’s claim he could be harmed if not given the surgery.

“We find such a suggestion to be unjustifiable, against the better judgment of the citizens of the state, and offensive to the family’’ of the woman he killed, the letter said.

One of Kosilek’s attorneys, Joseph L. Sulman, said Thursday he understood why relatives of the murdered woman are opposed to Wolf’s order.

“This is a case that requires us to separate our emotions and focus on legal principles,’’ he said. “I can’t fault anyone associated with the victim of my client’s crime to not like this outcome or want something worse than life in prison. That’s perfectly normal.’’

But he added that Wolf’s order was well thought out and was based on the advice of medical professionals, not on arguments made by politicians.

Sulman also said that if the Correction Department does appeal, he believes that Wolf’s order will be upheld because of the legal scholarship and detailed examination the judge has made during the more than 10 years he has sat on the case. The Correction Department said it is reviewing the judge’s decision and considering whether to appeal it.

Brandel’s mother, Margaret Landry, was the older sister of the victim. Her mother died of breast cancer when she was 54 years old and was heartbroken by the death of her only sibling, Brandel said.

The cost of the surgery ranges from $7,000 to more than $50,000, depending on the extent of cosmetic work, according to informational surgery and transgender websites.

Brandel said that if Kosilek ultimately has the operation, she has hopes for what happens when the surgery begins.

“With luck, he will die on the operating table,’’ said Brandel, who has worked in health care for 22 years. “I would never, ever wish harm on anybody but him.’’ She added, “Did he care what he did to my aunt? No, he didn’t.’’

Martin Finucane of the Globe staff contributed to this report. John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com.
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