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Woman gets 15 to 40 years in plot to kill police informant

January 4, 2021 GMT

SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) — A woman has been sentenced to 15 to 40 years in state prison for her role in a plot to murder a police informant in northeastern Pennsylvania almost three years ago.

Melinda Palermo, 40, apologized before she was sentenced Monday by a Lackawanna County judge, The (Scranton) Times-Tribune reported. The Jenkins Township resident had pleaded guilty in March to third-degree murder in the April 2018 death of 24-year-old Nina Gatto.

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Prosecutors alleged that Palermo tried to kill Gatto by giving her heroin laced with fentanyl and battery acid in an effort to keep her from testifying against Palermo’s boyfriend, 34-year-old Cornelius Mapson, in a drug case. Authorities said the attempt failed, and Mapson later killed Gatto by suffocating her in her Scranton apartment.

Palermo said she deserved whatever sentence the judge imposed. She said she thought she was protecting her family, but the shooting death of her own son outside an after-hours club on Mother’s Day in 2019 helped changed her thinking.

“Thirty months ago, I don’t think I could fully grasp the magnitude of my crime,” she said. “Not fully. ... Losing a child is a pain no mother should ever feel. It leaves an emptiness in your soul that never goes away.”

Defense attorneys portrayed Palermo as a kind-hearted woman and loving mother who had a series of abusive relationships until she met Mapson, whom they characterized as a master manipulator. The defense also cited her cooperation with authorities in arguing for a light sentence.

District Attorney Mark Powell, however, said Palermo was no victim but someone who actively participated in a murder.

“She is a murderer,” Powell said. “Nothing less.”

A co-defendant, Kevin Weeks, 27, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit third-degree murder, was also sentenced later Monday to 15 to 40 years. Before sentencing, he told the judge he had no excuse for his actions because “I ultimately did it to myself.”

Mapson was convicted of first- and third-degree murder and conspiracy in a non-jury trial. He professed his innocence as he was sentenced in August to life in prison without possibility of parole plus 5 1/2 to 26 years.

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This story has been corrected to note death of defendant’s son occurred in 2019 rather than last year.