A defiant Victor Rodgers shouted obscenities and tussled with bailiffs through his restraints at the end of his sentencing for murder before bailiffs finally pinned him to the floor, then wrestled him out of the courtroom as his mother called for her son from a courthouse corridor and the victim’s widow shouted in rage from the gallery.
“He ripped my world from me,” Sheila Burns, widow of murder victim Kerry Ray Burns, yelled as deputies took Rodgers away.
It was a final, chaotic image for a grieving family who came to the Sacramento County Courthouse for one last look at the man who killed Burns in 2012.
Rodgers, 22, was sentenced Friday by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Robert Twiss to 50 years to life in state prison in the deadly ambush killing of Burns, 27, as Burns stood on the front steps of his mother’s Arden Arcade area duplex. The men were partners in a failed check kiting scheme. Rodgers thought Burns cheated him out of cash, prosecutors said.
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Rodgers, 19 at the time of the shooting May 22, 2012, will be eligible for parole at age 69. He escaped conviction in January after a weeks-long trial and more than a week of deliberation ended in a mistrial. But jurors in June needed fewer than two hours after a month of testimony to hand Rodgers a life sentence.
“We had a chance to retry it and if it’s a murder case, we will every time,” prosecuting Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Thomas Asker said outside the district attorney’s offices after the sentencing. “It’s costly and frustrating for a prosecutor, but, in the end, justice was served.”
Defense attorney Michael Long argued that no scientific evidence, witness accounts or telephone records point to Rodgers as the shooter. Long also argued detectives lied to and threatened witnesses, including Rodgers’ brother Malik, with long prison sentences if they didn’t cooperate. Malik Rodgers eventually agreed to testify in exchange for an accessory plea in the fatal shooting.
Three generations of Burns’ family, many inconsolable in their grief, sobbed in the gallery, tearfully remembered a man who was husband, son, brother and grandson, and spoke passionately of the fate that awaited the man who ended his life.
“You took a precious life,” Marsha Washington, Kerry Burns’ mother, told Rodgers from the gallery. “Maybe there’s a day where I can forgive you. Today is not that day.”
Sheila Burns had been a constant presence throughout the case, attending every one of the more than 50 court appearances leading to the two trials. But Friday’s verdict and sentencing still left her without the one thing she wants most.
“I waited for this day for three years, but Kerry’s not coming back ever,” Sheila Burns said after Rodgers’ sentencing. Teenage sweethearts, the Burnses had four children with a fifth on the way when her husband was killed. “There’s nothing I can give to get him back.”