Thursday, June 2, 2011
Judge makes Hitler comparison in sentencing Irvington man for role in robbery, shooting of 4
IRVINGTON - Rolando Terrell may indeed be the generous, gentle man his family and friends described in numerous letters praising the convicted felon. But any acts of kindness on his part only highlight Terrell’s egomania and narcissism, Superior Court Judge Joseph Cassini III said.
"Even Adolf Hitler was kind, benevolent and considerate to his inner circle of friends and loved ones," Cassini said before sentencing Terrell on Wednesday to life in prison without parole for his part in the 2008 slaying of a woman and three teenage girls in Irvington.
Like Hitler, the judge said, "Mr. Terrell has a very dark side."
In April, a jury convicted Terrell, 39, of robbery and related arson and weapons charges but failed to reach a verdict on the murder counts. The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office said Wednesday it intends to retry Terrell for the four killings.
Terrell, a reputed ranking Bloods gang member with a long criminal history, remains charged with the Sept. 8, 2008, quadruple killing. He received the life sentence on the robbery conviction under New Jersey’s "three strikes" law after having twice previously been convicted of first-degree robberies. The judge called Terrell, who has been arrested 15 times as an adult and seven times as a juvenile, "a career criminal."
An imposing presence who was known on the street as "Ratman," Terrell is said to be a member of the notorious Double ii Bloods faction. He served seven years in prison after a jury in 2002 convicted him of a weapons offense, but was acquitted of murder in the killing of a rival gang member in the same case.
In the Irvington case, Cassini said, there was no such confrontation. Terrell knew the home was occupied by women and children, who he should have known were particularly vulnerable.
Killed with single gunshots to the head that morning were Candace McLean, 40, a popular cheerleading coach; her 18-year-old daughter, Talia McLean; her niece, Zakiyyah Jones, also 18; and 13-year-old Latrisha Carruthers-Fields, her boyfriend’s daughter.
Prosecutors said Terrell set the home afire in hopes of concealing his crime. Candes McLean’s daughter, Anijah — then 19 — survived by hiding in a closet and later saved her 16-month-old nephew by grabbing him and running from the burning house.
Assistant Essex County Prosecutor Roger Imhof, who handled the case, said securing a murder conviction will protect against any appeal Terrell may file on the robbery count.
"The family needs closure," he said, referring to the many victims’ relatives in court Wednesday, several of whom spoke about their pain and grief.
"You and I both know what you did," Anijah McLean said, speaking to Terrell before the sentencing. She then paused briefly to stare at Terrell, who sat passively at the defense table, in his customary tailored suit. "I never knew someone to be so heartless, cruel, envious," she said.
Because Terrell still faces murder charges, he did not address the court as was his right, said his attorney, Joseph Krakora.
Michael Hoskins, who is Candace’s brother, locked eyes on Terrell and said, "I just hope you get what’s coming to you, my friend."
Hoskins also described frustration with the jury’s inability to return a murder conviction. "It was pure hell," he said in court, but later expressed his gratitude with the judge’s sentence.
While the jury found enough evidence to convict Terrell on the robbery and weapons charges, it did not find enough to convict him of murder. His admitted accomplice, Lester Hayes, pleaded guilty to reduced charges, and testified Terrell fired the shots. Anijah McLean testified, too, saying she heard but did not see Terrell inside the house. The prosecutor’s office has always maintained Terrell was the gunman.
It was revealed during the trial Candace McLean had sold drugs, and that Terrell targeted the home on Columbia Avenue believing there were substantial amounts of drugs and cash inside. There weren’t.
"My sister was a good person," Rosalie Roberson said, addressing the court through tears that halted her speech several times. "She loved her kids and her family. Did she make some bad decisions? Yes, she did. But she didn’t deserve this. None of them deserved this."