A Buffalo teenager who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for her role in the 2017 beating and stabbing death of her step-grandfather was sentenced Thursday to 20 years to life in prison by Erie County Court Judge Kenneth F. Case.
The lawyer for 18-year-old Alexandria Heath sought a lighter sentence for his client, who he described as as having an IQ in the low 70s — which he said contributed to her being easily persuaded to act against her character.
Alexandria Heath pleaded guilty last month for acting in concert with her boyfriend, 20-year-old Romaine Jirdon, in the killing of Thomas Heath, 58, on Nov. 17, 2017, in Thomas Heath's West Ferry Street home.
"All these issues that led up to that fateful night seem to have started to change once she was in a relationship with Romaine Jirdon. It was certainly nothing that was in her character before that relationship started," said Brian Parker, Alexandria Heath's lawyer.
"She has accepted responsibility for her conduct and (pleaded) guilty instead of going to trial," Parker added. "I'm asking the court to consider something less than the maximum."
Case did not appear moved by the lawyer's request — nor a tearful statement read in court by Alexandria Heath, prior to the judge handing down the sentence.
"Today, I would like to say that I'm truly sorry for this tragedy," Alexandria Heath said.
Addressing the judge and about two dozen family members and friends of Thomas Heath, Alexandria Heath asked for forgiveness for her role in the death of the man who helped raise her and who had treated her as if she were his own daughter.
"I would like to share with you guys my dad's last words that he said to me before he died. He told it me it was OK. Just go. He said that he loved me," Alexandria Heath said.
She recalled a memory of Thomas Heath many years prior.
"When I was a little girl, I used to stand on his steel-toed boots and dance with him, and he would always be nice," Alexandria Heath said. "I was daddy's little girl and I will always love my dad."
Brenton Heath, a son of Thomas Heath, was allowed to address the court. Brenton Heath said his father doted on Alexandria as if she were his own daughter.
"He would go to every one of her swim meets, even if he had to call off work," Brenton Heath said. "He didn't question it, because he loved her."
Case said he was perplexed by Alexandria Heath's actions toward a man who had shown her so much compassion.
"This man raised you as his own child, as if he was your father, not your step-grandfather, to die the way that he did. Certainly, the last year of his life, he opened up his home to you and showed you more compassion than probably anybody else," he said.
"The world lost a good person and a good man whose only fault, probably, was being too kind to you. Frankly, this whole thing is just sickening," Case said.
"After considering everything, it doesn't appear to me that you are worthy of any leniency here," he added.
Last month, Case sentenced Jirdon to a term of 20 years to life in prison. Jirdon also pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree murder for his role in the crime.