There was satisfaction on one side and tears and dismay on the other as convicted murderer Lawrence Slaughter was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for his part in a robbery that led to an elderly woman's death.
Slaughter, 29, looked to the audience section after Judge Thomas S. Clark pronounced sentence Monday morning. One woman dropped her head to her knees as others cried.
A jury found Slaughter guilty April 18 of murder, robbery and participating in a criminal street gang in connection with the death of 71-year-old Guadalupe Ramos. Police said co-defendant Christopher Patterson knocked Ramos down as he snatched a necklace from her, then ran to a car where Slaughter and third defendant Maxamillon McDonald were waiting.
Ramos died of cardiac arrest due to an irregular heartbeat brought on by blunt force trauma.
Before imposing sentence, Clark said he believed that Slaughter didn't expect Ramos to die, nor did the others involved in the crime. The law makes it clear, however, that intent doesn't matter in cases like this.
"When engaged in violent crime and acting in concert with others, that risk is assumed," Clark said.
Ramos' daughter, Natalie Ramos, said she's satisfied with the sentence and can finally start to get some closure.
"One down, two to go," Ramos said of the other defendants.
Olivia Haywood, Slaughter's mother, said she feels bad about what happened to Guadalupe Ramos, but her son wasn't a part of it.
"My son had no knowledge of what (Patterson) was going to do," she said.
Slaughter's attorney, Frank Butkiewicz, argued for a continuance because he believed Patterson might be willing to testify that Slaughter had nothing to do with the robbery. Butkiewicz said he'd received two letters last week that were supposedly written by Patterson, and that if he testified it could be grounds for a motion for a new trial.
Prosecutor Eric Smith said no credence should be given to Patterson or to the letters.
Clark reviewed the letters and admitted them into evidence. He noted the first letter was not signed or dated, and that the second had Patterson's name printed on it but nothing indicating that Patterson would be willing to testify.
The judge denied the continuance and proceeded with sentencing.
Police have said Guadalupe Ramos was walking with relatives when she was knocked down by Patterson Aug. 19 outside the Foods Co. market on Haley Street.
McDonald was found guilty of murder and robbery and is scheduled to be sentenced June 13, and a pre-preliminary hearing for Patterson is set for May 21.