FARGO, N.D. - A former jailer who admitted sexually assaulting inmates was sentenced to life in prison without parole yesterday for stabbing and strangling a college student in her off-campus apartment.

Moe Gibbs was convicted of murder last month in Bismarck for the September 2006 slaying of Mindy Morgenstern, 22, a student at Valley City State University.

When asked whether he had anything to say before sentencing, Gibbs, 35, maintained his innocence and told Judge John Paulson, "My heart, my prayers go out to the Morgenstern family. This is a terrible crime that never should have happened, and I apologize that it happened."

The judge, however, said the evidence was overwhelming that Gibbs had strangled and stabbed Morgenstern in the neck, then poured Pine-Sol cleaning fluid on her face and torso last year. He denied the former Barnes County jailer's request for a new trial.

"The actual happenings of the murder are just horrific," Paulson said.

Morgenstern's mother, Eunice, was the only witness to give a statement at yesterday's hearing.

She looked at Gibbs and said, "Mr. Gibbs, I forgive you publicly here. I also want you to know that I won't forget what you did to Mindy."

She ended her comments by telling Gibbs, "my heart goes out" to his family and children. Gibbs said, "Thank you."

Gibbs has pleaded guilty to a 2004 rape in Fargo and to six counts of sexual assault against five female inmates at the Barnes County jail.

Prosecutor Jonathan Byers said he believed that Morgenstern's killing had been sexually motivated.

He said that one of sexual assaults at the jail happened the morning Morgenstern was killed and that Gibbs has admitted he has a sexual addiction.

Prosecutors believe that Morgenstern, of New Salem, was killed after she fought back.

Earlier, Gibbs' attorneys said he should be granted a third murder trial because their $55,000 budget was too small to hire the expert witnesses he needed.

"I apologized to this man because the system let him down," defense attorney Jeff Bredahl told Paulson, touching Gibbs on the shoulder. "The system let him down because of money."

Byers said Gibbs had two good lawyers and access to evidence.

"We think the taxpayers did fund a fair trial for Mr. Gibbs." *