NEW LONDON, Conn. (WTNH) — It was a very emotional day Thursday at the New London Superior Court as a judge sentenced Avery Hallbrooks for killing his pregnant girlfriend, Corina Zukowski, in December 2018.

The couple had been living at the Starlight Inn in East Lyme when Zukowski’s family says Hallbrook, 32, stabbed her 47 times. Hallbrooks initially claimed that Zukowski had stabbed herself.

In July 2022, Hallbrooks agreed to a 40-year sentence, which Zukowski’s family said was not enough. Zukowski, 25, was the mother of three boys, who are now ages 5, 8 and 9, and being raised by her parents. Her family said she was 16 weeks pregnant when she was killed.

As the oldest of nine children, Zukowski also left behind several family and friends, many of whom were at the courthouse to show their support and to speak at her sentencing.

Family and friends of Corina Zukowski gather outside New London Superior Court on Oct. 6, 2022.

“Avery Hallbrooks is a coward,” Phil Rodriguez, Zukowski’s stepfather, said. “He shook this family to a core.”

“Corina was the funniest, most beautiful, and unbelievably loyal person I have ever met,” said Zukowski’s friend, Josephine Spinnato.

Before the judge sentenced him, Hallbrooks had the opportunity to address her family and friends.

“This wasn’t supposed to happen at all,” Hallbrooks said. “None of this was supposed to happen, and I’m just sorry.”

His apology rang hollow to those who want to see him spend the rest of his life in jail.

“Mostly what I’m scared about is, if you’re a woman, daughter, mother, be frightened because domestic violence is serious,” Rodriguez said. “If you need help seek help.”

Family and friends of Zukowski urge those who suspect domestic violence to step in and offer help. They say the most dangerous time is when the victim decides to leave.

“We weren’t home yet, and she tried to do it on her own, and he made sure that didn’t happen,” said Zukowski’s mother, Heather Rodriguez.

Zukowski’s family hopes that laws will change, and that murder as a result of domestic violence will become a special circumstance that will carry a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.

As part of the plea agreement, Hallbrooks will serve 40 years in prison. He cannot be released early for good behavior, and he cannot appeal his sentence.

He has already served four years of his 40-year sentence. He will be eligible for release when he’s 68 years old.