WILKES-BARRE — Family members of both Dominic Jaquariuspa Ray and Victor Grandy sat with bated breath, waiting for a sentence to be read.
On Monday, Ray’s family learned they wouldn’t see him in public for the next 20 to 40 years.
But Grandy’s family, who donned white T-shirts in honor of their late loved one, who they called “V-Mone,” will never see him again, as Ray pleaded guilty to Grandy’s 2016 murder at the Sherman Hills apartment complex in Wilkes-Barre.
Ray, 25, entered a guilty plea before Luzerne County Judge Fred A. Pierantoni III on June 4 at what was originally scheduled to be his final status conference before a trial that was set to begin on June 24.
The Wilkes-Barre man pleaded guilty to a single count of third degree murder, and had a count of prohibited possession of a firearm withdrawn by prosecutors in pursuance of a plea deal.
At an emotional sentencing hearing on Monday, family members of both Ray and Grandy pleaded with the judge — with Ray’s family begging for leniency, while Grandy’s family wanted justice.
One of Grandy’s cousins, Shanell Johnson, spoke briefly about the harm Ray’s crime had done to her family.
“You are not God. You do not decide who lives and dies. But on this day, you did,” she said. “For what, because you were angry? Anger is just an emotion that normally lasts a few minutes, but not for this.”
“I hope you rot in jail,” Johnson said at the end of her testimony.
Other members of Grandy’s family said it was unfair that Grandy’s 3-year-old son would not get the chance to know him, and how it was unfair that Grandy’s life was snuffed out.
‘Not a monster’
Ray’s brother, Mygod Kelly, spoke passionately, saying that Ray wasn’t a monster, and that he had just made a mistake.
“He’d give you the shirt off his back — even that green shirt he has on,” Kelly said, referring to Ray’s prison-issued jumpsuit. “Sometimes things happen too fast to think logically.”
Ray’s family described him has a loving, caring father, who needed to get home to his daughter.
For his part, Ray also characterized Grandy’s shooting death as an accident.
“My intention wasn’t to hit anyone specifically,” Ray said, saying he shot randomly to “increase fear” as he was being robbed. Ray said he took responsibility and “deeply apologized” for Grandy’s death.
Ray’s defense attorney, Frank McCabe, reiterated that his client took responsibility for Grandy’s death, saying it came about as a result of a “drug deal that went bad.” Grandy’s family were noticeably shocked by this characterization of events.
Assistant District Attorney Tony Ross, though, balked at the idea of Ray taking responsibility.
“To try and paint this picture that Ray is some sort of victim is offensive to me, the Commonwealth, and to the victim’s family,” Ross said, adding that, as much as Ray’s family would like to see him come home, Grandy’s family would never see their loved one again.
Pierantoni agreed with Ross’s assessment, saying that he did not believe that Ray truly took responsibility for what he called a “heinous, senseless action.”
Initially, Pierantoni issued Ray a sentence of 480 to 960 months, or between 40 and 80 years, in prison. However, after a brief period of confusion, Pierantoni vacated this sentence, saying it was a mathematical error.
Instead, Ray was issued a sentence of between 240 and 480 months, or 20 and 40 years, in state prison, which is the maximum sentence allowable by law for third degree murder.
Pierantoni also gave Ray credit for 147 days time served. Ray was also ordered to pay over $5,000 in restitution.
Video footage from the complex allegedly showed Grandy, 32, meeting with two men shortly before his death. Grandy could be seen trying to walk away, when one of the men, later identified as Ray, fired a shot in his direction.
Further footage from another angle showed Grandy running before collapsing. He was pronounced dead at the scene when officers arrived. Grandy suffered from two bullet wounds, one to the back and one to the leg, according to forensic pathologist Dr. Gary Ross.
Ray fled from the scene, but was later captured by U.S. Marshals in New York City in January 2017.
Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan