PONTIAC (WWJ/AP) – A Pontiac teenager has been ordered to spend the rest of his life in prison for killing two women over a bogus $10 bill.
Semaj Moran, 17, was sentenced Thursday in Oakland County Circuit Court along with his adult accomplice, 23-year-old Arnold Howard, who was given a 39-to-90-year sentence.
The sentencing comes months after Moran was found guilty of first-degree murder and Howard was found guilty of second-degree murder.
Loretta Fournier, 52, and Luann Robinson, 58, were shot to death in February 2012 in the two-apartment home they shared on Pingree, northwest of downtown Pontiac.
According to police statements read in court, Moran and Howard went to see Fournier — who the defendants called “Auntie Loretta” and “Mama Lo” — to smoke marijuana with her and exchange the bogus $10 bill she’d given them earlier. Moran told police that Fournier went to get the money and Howard told him to shoot the woman when the co-defendant flushed the toilet.
Moran, who was 15-years-old at the time, hesitated momentarily, police say, then shot Fournier three times — including once in the back and once in the head at close range. The defendants’ statements also say Howard raced upstairs to Robinson’s apartment, where Howard admitted to breaking in, taking her purse and pushing her down the stairs.
At the bottom of the stairs, police said, Moran shot her once in the head and the defendants fled. His statement says that Howard told him to shoot her.
Judge Denise Langford Morris sentenced Moran following statements from attorneys on both sides, as well as family members of both victims.
When asked by Assistant Prosecutor Kelli Megyesi for clarification on the sentence, Morris said she was “not speaking on parole.”
“That’s for the parole board to decide,” the judge said. “I’m saying life. Period.”
Before he was sentenced, Moran gave a tearful apology to the victims’ families and to his own.
“I hope you will one day be able to forgive me,” he said. “Everyone makes mistakes, and I know I made one. If I could take all of it back, I would. There ain’t too much I can do now. It’s done, and I just really want y’all to forgive me, everyone.”
Moran’s lawyer, William Mitchell, said his client likely will be eligible for parole someday because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled it unconstitutional to send juveniles to life in prison without parole.
Mitchell said Moran had a difficult upbringing, including a father who was not really in his life, a mother who could not attend his sentencing because she was in prison and an incident when he was 2-years-old in which he fatally shot his younger brother after being left unsupervised in a room with a loaded gun.
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