The man who broke into the newsroom of a community newspaper chain in the Maryland capital in 2018, killing five staff members, was sentenced Tuesday to five consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole, according to prosecutors.
The man, Jarrod W. Ramos, 41, had pleaded guilty in October 2019 to 23 counts, including five counts of first-degree murder, for the shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper offices in Annapolis on June 28, 2018, one of the deadliest attacks on American journalists.
The Anne Arundel County State Attorney’s Office announced the sentence after a two-hour hearing. State Attorney Anne Colt Leitess had asked for at least five life sentences without the possibility of parole.
The state attorney’s office said in a statement that Mr. Ramos was also sentenced to a sixth life in prison for the attempted murder of a person who survived the shooting, and an additional 345 years on other charges.
“The impact of this case is simply immense,” said Judge Michael Wachs, according to The Associated Press. “To say that the defendant showed callous and complete disregard for the sanctity of human life is simply a gross understatement.”
Before sentencing, in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, survivors of the shooting and family members of the victims spoke and told Judge Wachs about their grief and loss.
Montana Winters Geimer, daughter of one of the victims, Wendi Winters, 65, a local news reporter and community columnist, testified that her mother “woke up one morning, went to work and never came back.”
“The day she died was the worst day of my life,” she told the judge, according to The AP. “The hours I spent not knowing if I was alive or dead have lived in my nightmares ever since.”
When offered the opportunity to address the court, Mr. Ramos shook his head, The Washington Post reported.
After the hearing, Ms. Leitess told reporters that Mr. Ramos had “tried to look down on me” in court. “The judge had the last word. The community had the last word. “
She added: “He didn’t win.”
“It was the most serious sentence you can get in the state of Maryland,” he said.
In July, a jury deliberated for less than two hours before concluding that Mr. Ramos was sane at the time of the attack and criminally responsible for his actions.
Six survivors testified at that trial, recalling the day Mr. Ramos walked through his workplace with a 12-gauge shotgun, killing five colleagues: Gerald Fischman, 61, editor of the editorial page; Rob Hiaasen, 59, feature editor and columnist; John McNamara, 56, sports reporter and editor of local weekly newspapers; Rebecca Smith, 34, sales assistant; and Mrs. Winters.
Selene San Felice, a former reporter for The Capital Gazette who was in the newsroom during the shooting, told reporters after sentencing that prosecutors had notified her before the trial that Ramos had said he regretted not shooting her.
“Your part of the story is over,” he said. “It’s an immense amount of closure to be able to see that they take it forever.”
Mr. Ramos’s attorneys had described him as a loner who was fueled by delusions and who believed that The Capital Gazette and the Maryland court system were conspiring against him.
Prosecutors said Ramos had carried out the shooting as a revenge attempt after The Capital Gazette published an article in 2011 about his guilty plea in a previous stalking case.
He filed a defamation lawsuit against Capital Gazette Communications and several of its employees in July 2012. A judge dismissed it after Mr. Ramos could not identify anything that had been falsely reported or show that he had been harmed by the article. .
Ramos had also used a Twitter account to poke fun at the reporter who wrote the article. He posted screenshots of court documents related to the defamation case and criticized other newspaper employees. His tweets were full of profanity and often targeted directly at employees.
Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland said after Mr. Ramos was sentenced that justice was served and that the five people who were killed would remain “forever in our hearts.”
“While we hope this brings some closure to families, the pain of that horrible day will always be with us,” he said in a statement on Twitter.
On June 28, the third anniversary of the attack, the city of Annapolis dedicated a memorial to the victims, calling it “Guardians of the First Amendment.”
Steven Rittenour, Ms Smith’s brother, told reporters Tuesday it was “a kind of comfort” to see his sister’s memory be enshrined there.