4 of 5 New Hampshire juvenile lifers await resentencing
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The victims were four men and three women, shot or stabbed to death between 1991 and 2009. The crimes differed, but the outcomes were the same: Five men, convicted in homicides committed when they were 17, have been serving life sentences without parole in New Hampshire.
Now, under a series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions, juvenile lifers such as these five men are getting a chance at eventual release.
Four of the five New Hampshire offenders will be resentenced by judges in the counties in which the crimes occurred. The fifth, Steven Spader, was resentenced to life without parole in 2013 after he refused to attend his hearing or authorize his attorneys to argue for a lesser sentence.
There have been no changes to New Hampshire law regarding juvenile offenders following the Supreme Court rulings. Juveniles can still be certified to stand trial as adults, but they will no longer automatically be sentenced to life without parole for crimes that carry that sentence.
Here’s a look at New Hampshire’s five cases.
On a snowy night in March 1991, Lopez pointed a gun at a homeless man in Nashua and asked for money. Roscoe Powers ran off, but Lopez caught up to him when he fell on the ice and shot him in the chest, according to court documents. Powers survived.
Less than an hour later, Robert Goyette, 31, was sitting in his car when Lopez stuck a gun in the window and asked for money. Goyette refused and drove off, but Lopez ran alongside the car and shot him in the neck. Goyette died the next day.
Police found Lopez two blocks away, brandishing a piece of wooden railing, which he smashed in two against an officer’s shoulder. At his trial in 1993, Lopez overturned the defense table and shouted obscenities at the jury after hearing he’d been convicted of first-degree murder.
Lopez was initially charged as a juvenile but then was certified to stand trial as an adult. The law was changed in 2015 to make 18 the age of adulthood, but younger offenders still can be certified as adults.
A status conference to schedule his resentencing hearing is set for August 2018.
Dingman and 14-year-old brother Jeffrey shot their parents as they arrived home from work in February 1996. They wrapped the bodies in garbage bags and hid them in the attic and basement. The Rochester teens played and partied over the weekend, returned to school Monday, and were arrested after their parents’ co-workers called police.
Jeffrey got 30 years to life in a plea deal and was paroled in 2013. Testifying at his brother’s trial, Jeffrey said he shot his parents first but said Robert instigated the killings and taunted each before firing the fatal shots. Prosecutors said Robert chafed under his parents rules and curfews, and in the months leading up to the killings, the boys considered several outlandish plots, including poisoning their parents or pushing them onto thin ice.
John Kacavas, who prosecuted the Dingmans, said Jeffrey’s immaturity was a factor in striking a deal. “We felt he was capable of redemption and rehabilitation because he was so young,” he said. “We could not feel that way about his brother.”
A status conference to schedule his resentencing is set for August 2018.
Friends Robert Tulloch and James Parker were bored with small-town life in Chelsea, Vermont, so they hatched a plan to kill people, steal their ATM cards and get $10,000 to move to Australia, Parker told prosecutors.
They tried four homes chosen at random before Dartmouth College professors Half and Susanne Zantop let them into their Hanover home in 2001. The pair posed as students conducting a survey, and then stabbed the couple to death. Fingerprints on a knife sheath linked them to the crime, but after being questioned by police, they fled Vermont and hitchhiked west. They were arrested at an Indiana truck stop weeks later.
Parker, 16 at the time, was sentenced to 25 years in a plea bargain. Tulloch, who initially pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder.
Tulloch’s resentencing hearing is set for April.
Soto was convicted of first-degree murder for the 2007 death of a Manchester man.
The incident started Jan. 1, 2007, when a man threatened children with a knife at a 7-Eleven. Their older cousin responded by punching the man, and a series of retaliatory and escalating assaults followed among the men’s friends and relatives.
At one point, Soto and five others, including 21-year-old Roscoe White, confronted a man named Aaron Kar, who had beaten White’s brother the day before. Soto cocked a gun and handed it to Roscoe White, who shot Kar in the leg and abdomen.
In his unsuccessful appeal, Soto argued that jurors should have been told they could convict him of the lesser charge of manslaughter because he acted “under an extreme mental or emotional disturbance caused by extreme provocation.”
Soto’s resentencing is scheduled for December 2018.
Spader was resentenced in 2013 to life without parole, plus 76 years.
He was a month shy of 18 when he killed Kimberly Cates in Mont Vernon in 2009 during a random home invasion. Cates’ 11-year-old daughter was wounded.
In a letter to the court before he was resentenced, he apologized to the Cates family and said he accepted responsibility, but Judge Gillian Abramson called his statement self-serving and disingenuous. Abramson said there was nothing in Spader’s background that might have contributed to his commission of the crimes, nor was he pressured or immature. Instead, he was the ringleader.
“The defendant’s participation in the attack was integral: defendant planned the assault, brutally murdered and maimed the victims, and as captain of this amoral team, intended to savagely kill them,” she wrote. “He reveled in his senseless crimes.
“It is not a lack of maturity impoverishing his judgment,” she wrote. “But rather a profound and disturbing lack of humanity.”
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