Frankie Resto, the man who robbed, shot and killed a Meriden convenience store owner in June 2012, was sentenced today to 53 years in prison for the murder of Ibrahim Ghazal.
The judge called Resto's crime an act of evil, then issued a sentence of 53 years in jail for murder. The sentence for robbery was 20 years.
Resto, now 38, will not outlive the sentence imposed, the judge said.
Police said Resto killed Ghazal, a father of six, on morning of June 27, 2012, at EZ Mart, located at 271 East Main Street in Meriden.
Ghazal's dream has been to own a store in America and he opened EZ mart just three weeks before he was killed in the robbery.
Resto, a convicted robber, was out on early release at the time of the armed robbery.
He entered Ghazal's store on that June day and demanded money.
Ghazal did not resist, authorities said. He handed over the cash and was then shot in the chest.
Most of Ibrahim's family was overseas when he was killed. He stayed in Connecticut to work in his new store while most of his family went to Jordan for his son's wedding.
"Because my son Shadi was going to be married on June 10, my children and I went back to Jordan for the wedding," Ibrahim's wife, Sudqieh, said in a statement. "However, I could not convince Ibrahim to come because he was concerned about his store."
He want the business to succeed and put in 14-to-15 hour days.
"Sadly, his hard work ethic probably cost my husband his life," Sudqieh said in her victim impact statement.
The family submitted a victim impact statement and refers to Resto as #283901 rather than by name.
"As long as prisoner #283901 does not admit his guilt(,) he must be considered as unreformed and a danger to society," the statement says.
Ibrahim's daughter, Tharwat, stayed in the United States with her father and rushed to the store when she learned that her father had been robbed and shot.
When she arrived, her father was already dead. The grief was too much to take and she passed out, according to the family.
When she came to, she had the daunting task of breaking the news to the rest of her family members, who were celebrating the wedding in Jordan.
Her brother got into a crash when he took the call with the tragic news.
"My husband of more than 40 years was violently ripped away from me in an instant -- and I was 9,000 miles away!," Sudqieh said. "I could not be at his side. I could not be with him in the end. There are no words to describe the grief and anguish that I feel"
She said her children feel a "similar grief for the cold-blooded murder of their beloved father."
"Never let this killer see the light of day," Ghazal's son begged of the judge.
Resto spoke during sentencing and one of Ghazal's family members covered her ears as he spoke.
"I feel for the family. It was an accident," he said.
The judge's response was that he did not believe that the shooting was an accident. He said he doesn't believe the defense or Resto.
The prosecutor said on Friday that no sentence can bring Ghazal back, fill the void of the loss or heal the community.
The family continues to receive counseling.
Ghazal's son addressed the court today. He said his father's death ruined everything and this was the first time he's seen his family in seven months.
The case also created a firestorm of controversy over the state's early release program, which allows inmates to earn credits toward an earlier release date and there are efforts to repeal the law.
In October, Resto rejected a plea deal that would require him to serve 40 years in prison. In November, he entered a plea under the Alford Doctrine, which means he defendant does not admit guilt, but agrees that the state has enough evidence against him to get a conviction.
The prosecutor said today that shows Resto has not taken full responsibility for his actions.
Resto's defense team argued that the issue of the case was intent and the Alford Doctrine was a way for him to take responsibility.
No one was more surprised than Resto when the gun went off, according to his attorney.
Resto has had a substance abuse problem and he was hallucinating when he shot Ghazal, his defense attorney said.
The judge said the crime is even more heinous when there is an innocent victim.
"All 7 of us, my children and me. are condemned to serve a lifetime of suffering that will end only with our deaths," Sudqieh Ghazal said in a statement.