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Capital Gazette Shooter Sentenced To Six Life Terms

An Anne Arundel County judge has ordered six consecutive life sentences, five of them without the possibility of parole, for the Capital Gazette shooter.

Judge Michael Wachs called it “the sentence the defendant deserves.”

“As to count one,” he intoned Tuesday morning, “the murder of Wendi Winters in the first degree, life without the possibility of parole. As to count 2, the murder of Rob Hiaasen in the first degree, life without the possibility of parole to be served consecutively.”

He went on adding the same sentences for the murders of Gerald Fischman, John McNamara and Rebecca Smith, all to be served consecutively. He added another life sentence for the attempted murder of Paul Gillespie, a Capital photographer, and another 345 years for various assault charges in the indictment, all to be served consecutively.

Jarrod Ramos, of Laurel, pleaded guilty to the June 2018 shootings in October 2019, but added he was not criminally responsible, Maryland’s version of the insanity plea. A jury deliberated less than two hours last July before rejecting that claim after a three-week trial.

He sat stoically at the defense table in gray prison garb with a mask covering half his face as Wachs pronounced the sentence and during the emotional hearing that preceded it as survivors and the families of the victims told their stories.

Rachael Pacella, who hid under a desk while Ramos stalked the newsroom searching for victims, said she has been diagnosed with PTSD.

“This incident has robbed me of a lot of good mentors and good people that I worked with,” she said. “I’ll never work with Rob or Gerald again.”

Judy Hiaasen, Rob Hiaasen’s older sister, remembered him as the “curator of obscure family memories' ' who carried their children on his shoulders and wore one of their dead father’s tie clips to her daughter’s wedding so “a piece of my dad” could be there.

“I have lost people that I loved, but the impact of this kind of loss is unique and the grieving is unique.” she said. “My little brother was slaughtered and the impact of that loss is indescribable and it is unique and it is never ending.”

Montana Winters Geimer, Wendi Winters’ older daughter, talked about how her mother wrote the stories of the lives of so many people in Annapolis, but never got the chance to write her own story.

“She woke up one morning, went to work and never came back. She died a hero. She fought back.”

Winters was shot as she charged the gunman with a trash can, trying to stop him.

Outside the courthouse, Anne Arundel State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess said the man who blasted his way into the Annapolis newsroom tried to have the last word even as he was leaving the courtroom, but failed.

“He tried to stare me down,” she said, “but that didn't work because I looked right back at him. He did not have the last word. The judge had the last word. The community had the last word. All of us here have the last word.”

Leitess said the survivors and the families of the victims have been on a journey of healing and that this could be the beginning of a new chapter in their lives.

Paul Gillespie, the photographer, said they couldn’t have asked for a better outcome, but he’d rather have his Capital Gazette family back.

“I don't think there’s ever going to be any closure,” he said. “I mean, I lost five of my family members. I almost got killed myself. It's something that haunts me every day.”

Andrea Chamblee, John McNamara’s wife, thanked the prosecution team for being ferocious in their pursuit of Ramos and kind to the families.

“Today is the day that should feel like the monumental end of something, but I'm still not sure that something will ever end. This is a lifelong paint that we're all carrying.”

Cindi Rittenour, Rebecca Smith’s sister, said she was relieved they got the sentence they had wished for.

“It's the moment that you know, determined whether we were going to be able to actually fully heal or if we would still have something that was going to have to keep us going through who knows how long,” she said.

Selene San Felice, who also hid under a desk as Ramos roamed the newsroom, said she feels “an immense amount of closure” to see him being taken away forever and never have to think about him again.

“But this isn't just one wound that we have to heal from,” she said. “And this one wound isn't healed. It's many, many wounds. And they reopen themselves and new ones pop up.”

Her father, John San Felice, urged reporters in Annapolis to press on.

“Wendy and Rob, John, Rebecca, Gerald,” he said, choking up as he spoke. “They all live in Seline and in our hearts. They're the ones that make her strong.”

Ramos has been held in the Anne Arundel County Detention Center since his arrest. He most likely will serve his sentence in a maximum security prison.

Joel McCord is a trumpet player who learned early in life that that’s no way to make a living.