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‘Palm Sunday Massacre’ Triggerman Could Be Out in 50 Years

September 11, 1985

NEW YORK (AP) _ A man convicted of killing 10 women and children in last year’s ″Palm Sunday Massacre″ has been sentenced to a total of 250 years, but under state law he’ll spend no more than 50 years behind bars, his attorney says.

Christopher Thomas, 36, of the Bronx, was sentenced Tuesday by state Supreme Court Justice Ronald Aiello of Brooklyn to eight and one-third to 25 years in prison on each of 10 counts of first-degree manslaughter. Aiello ordered the sentences to run consecutively for a total of 83 to 250 years.

Thomas was convicted July 19 of the fatal shootings of two women and eight children between the ages of 3 and 14 in Brooklyn.

″It is this court’s intention that you serve every day, every hour and every minute of the minimum sentence I impose on you,″ said Aiello.

‴Don’t let him out.′ That is my message to the New York State Parole Board,″ said Aiello, adding ″Your judgment day today is on earth. Your next judgment day will be with the good Lord. Today is a piece of cake, Mr. Thomas, compared to your final judgment day.″

Thomas would be eligible for parole after 25 years.

Jurors found Thomas guilty of 10 counts of intentional murder but reduced their findings to manslaughter because of ″extreme emotional disturbance.″ They said later that testimony about his cocaine abuse had convinced them he was disturbed at the time of the slayings on April 15, 1984.

Defense attorney Roger Schwarz said later that state law requires Thomas serve no more than 50 years. He said the law says that when a person is convicted of three or more violent felonies, and consecutive sentences total more than 50 years, the maximum to be served is 50 years.

Thomas did not speak and stood expressionless during the sentencing.

Prosecutors claimed ″jealousy and greed″ drove Thomas to the killings at the home of convicted drug dealer Enrique Bermudez. They said he believed Bermudez was having an affair with his wife and that the two men also had had a falling out over drug deals.

The defense countered that evidence showed Thomas was too unstable from emotional distress over his disintegrating marriage and longtime abuse of cocaine to have committed the murders alone.

Aiello also sentenced Thomas to five to 15 years each on two criminal weapon possession counts, to run concurrently with the manslaughter term.

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