Gunman receives five-plus life sentences for 2018 Capital Gazette massacre

by mcardinal

Chris Lange, FISM News


A Maryland judge sentenced Jarrod Ramos to five life terms without the possibility of parole Tuesday for the 2018 massacre of five people at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis. 

The sentence handed down by Circuit Court Judge Michael Wachs also includes an additional life term for the attempted murder of Paul Gillespie, plus 345 years for each of the surviving victims.

“To say the defendant showed a callous and cruel disregard for the sanctity of human life is simply an understatement,” said Wachs in a statement to the Capital Gazette. “What I impose is what the defendant deserves.”

On June 28, 2018, Ramos (41) entered the newsroom of the Capital Gazette and opened fire, killing assistant editor Rob Hiaasen, 59; reporter Wendi Winters, 65; editorial page editor Gerald Fischman, 61; sports journalist John McNamara, 56; and sales assistant Rebecca Smith, 34. The shooting was purportedly in retaliation for an article published about Ramos in the newspaper nearly a decade prior. Ramos had tried, unsuccessfully, to sue the Capital Gazette over the column, but his lawsuit was eventually dismissed. 

In October of 2019, Ramos pleaded guilty to 23 felony counts, including five counts of first-degree murder, but claimed he was not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder. In July, a jury rejected his insanity defense.

Several survivors and family members of the victims provided emotional victim impact statements to the jury during Tuesday’s hearing. 

Janel Cooley, an advertising assistant, described hiding under her desk in terror when she “saw a man with a gun,” and the horrifying moment he shot and killed sales assistant Rebecca Smith, 34, whose desk was situated across from Cooley’s.

“I hear Rebecca in a very small, quiet voice saying, ‘No no no,’ and then I heard the shotgun go off and that’s when I realized what was happening,” she said.

During sentencing, Wachs called Ramos a “remorseless, cold-blooded killer” and took time to pay tribute to each victim. The judge also praised the Gazette’s courage for publishing an edition of the paper the day after the massacre.

Outside the courtroom, State’s Attorney for Anne Arundel County, Anne Colt Leitess, praised the surviving victims and victims’ family members for their testimony, saying they showed “incredible bravery.” She referred to Ramos as a “narcissist” who “killed innocent people just to feel better about himself,” adding, “The jury saw through that and the judge saw through it today, sentencing him to the maximum sentence possible under law.”