The judge who sentenced a Buffalo teenager Friday for executing two young men near an East Side apartment complex in 2014 went on the record to tell future parole board members that he believes the killer should spend the rest of his life in prison.
Bobby Price III pleaded guilty in June to two counts of first-degree murder and a weapons charge in exchange for a sentence of 20 years to life in prison. Had he been found guilty at trial of first-degree murder, he could have been given a life sentence without parole.
State Supreme Court Justice M. William Boller told Price on Friday that is what he thought he deserved. Boller also noted that, by accepting the plea, the victims’ families were spared going through a trial and having to hear in detail how their two young men died.
“Nothing is more gut-wrenching,” he said.
A scuffle outside the courtroom between family members of the victims and Price’s family underlined the emotions surrounding the violent case.
Investigators and attorneys on both sides say there apparently was no compelling reason behind the killings other than some kind of “turf argument.” Dominique Harris, 20, and Naim Holt, 19, were walking outside the Langfield Homes apartment complex on Nov. 22, 2014, when Price showed up with a weapon, ordered the two young men to their knees and shot each in the head.
Price, who lived on Northland Avenue, had just turned 18 years old.
Price and his victims were acquainted and may even have been friends at one time, according to his attorney Anthony J. Lana. Prosecutor John Patrick Feroleto previously said there were indications Price considered the victims a threat to his “criminal enterprises” in the neighborhood.
Before sentencing, Harris’ aunt read a statement written by the young man’s mother, who told of raising her son and daughter “the very best I could.” She described her son as a young man who was working and trying to improve himself when he was shot with his best friend while walking to the store.
She asked for the harshest possible sentence for her son’s killer, a person she described as already being a hardened criminal even though he is not yet 20.
“Bobby Price has proven over and over that he is not a person that can commingle in a functional society,” she said. “The fact that he can so easily take two lives and then sleep at night signifies the kind of person he is.”
Maurice Williams spoke about Naim Holt, a young man he befriended and treated as his own son. He told of helping Holt find a job and of how Holt “had a smile on his face that would light up the world.”
He reflected on all the things Holt would never do, from succeeding at work and having a family to “sitting in a rocking chair to reminisce.”
“None of those things will come to pass because he’s no longer with us,” Williams said. “His mom lost her only child.”
Price had nothing to say before he was sentenced.
“We know that my words or Mr. Price’s words are not going to mean a whole lot to the families,” Lana told the court.
For himself, the defense lawyer said, he hoped that Price would use his time in prison to mature and reflect on what he did, so that possibly one day he might be released.
“If he doesn’t reform or change his actions, he’s going to spend his life in prison,” Lana concluded.
The would be fine with Boller.
“My heart goes out to you and these two men who died horrible, horrible deaths – needlessly,” he told the victim’s families. “I’m sure the district attorney told you that the parole board is not going to let (Price) out in 20 years.”
He then said again for the record:
“It’s the judge’s recommendation that he stay in prison for the rest of his life.”