NY teen gets life for killing 4 at Christmastime

AP News
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Posted: Dec 01, 2009 1:01 PM

A smirking teenager drew a life sentence without the possibility of parole Tuesday for killing four people during two robberies over the Christmas holidays last year.

"These savage acts occurred with personal satisfaction to you. ... You are the epitome of evil, plain and simple," Judge Francis Affronti told high school dropout Jaquan Clark before imposing a minimum 113-year sentence on consecutive murder and gun counts.

The 18-year-old Clark wore a blank stare throughout his two-week trial but appeared on the verge of laughing during sentencing. As he was escorted away, an onlooker shouted, "Merry Christmas, Jaquan!" and victims' relatives struggling to contain their grief erupted into angry cheers.

Clark, acting alone or with others last Dec. 26, killed Donald MacMaster, 62, Jeffrey Szymkowski, 33, and Arielle Griffin, 17, at a jewelry business MacMaster operated from his home. During a street robbery three days earlier, he killed Alfredo Ocasio, 37, with a shotgun blast in the mouth.

The defense argued that Clark, then 17, was an unwitting pawn in slayings carried out by a cousin who testified against him. But investigators maintain the only information tying the cousin to the murders came from Clark.

"There's absolutely no evidence whatsoever" of an accomplice, prosecutor Sandra Doorley said. "He showed no mercy or no compassion for his victims. Rather, he acted as a soulless monster."

Defense attorney James Nobles said Clark had suffered mental health problems, including delusions, since he was badly burned at home when he was 4 or 5. His homicidal rage wasn't properly diagnosed until age 15, Nobles said, when he told a therapist he had dreams of killing his family.

"You were a walking time bomb, I'm convinced of that," the judge said.

Clark was a passenger in a minivan that was pulled over by police Jan. 6. A loaded .357-caliber revolver was found under a seat. He had befriended Griffin and was seen with her and Szymkowski _ who had lived with MacMaster for about 20 years _ shortly before the triple slaying.

MacMaster was killed first with a shotgun blast from close range and Szymkowski was shot, knifed multiple times and battered with the shotgun handle. Griffin was beaten and stabbed because the gun had run out of ammunition.

"I lost my only child, my best friend," said Griffin's mother, Sondra.

Clark left behind a fingerprint on a kitchen knife, grabbed a beer from the fridge and drove off in Griffin's borrowed car, investigators said. They recovered his DNA from a beer bottle left on the abandoned car's dashboard and found a knife on the ground 25 feet away. The knife tip, which had broken off, was found embedded in Szymkowski's skull.