YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Unlike the day-long shooting spree that culminated in the death of a Youngstown mother, the sentencing hearing Friday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court for the man accused of killing her was short — but definitely not sweet.
Larenz Rhodes, 20, was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison by Judge Anthony Donofrio for the January 24, 2019 shooting death of 23-year-old Crystal Hernandez in her McBride Street apartment.
Rhodes is one of seven men charged in Hernandez’s death. Prosecutors said she was killed because Rhodes and the others wanted to retaliate against her boyfriend, Gabriel Smith, for a series of shootings earlier in the day that hurt Rhodes and another man.
Rhodes had nothing to say before the sentence was handed down. Defendants at sentencing who plan to appeal are often instructed by their counsel not to speak because anything they say at the appeal may be used against them.
His attorney, Frank Cassese, said he anticipates an appeal.
After a half-hour delay in starting, the hearing took a little more than 15 minutes.
A jury convicted Rhodes Tuesday after about 13 hours of deliberations following a five-day trial.
The series of shootings began at 1:30 a.m. the day Hernandez was killed and there were at least two other shootings before her murder.
When police found Hernandez around 9:15 p.m., her 2-year-old son was on her chest sleeping. The child wasn’t hurt and his grandparents are now taking care of him.
Smith is the father of the child. He is serving a prison sentence for a felonious assault conviction because of the feud.
Another co-defendant with him who was involved in the shootings, Lavante Perry, was murdered in December. Police say his death is not related to the Hernandez case.
Police found 53 shell casings from four different weapons outside of the apartment, including 25 from an AK-47 semi-automatic rifle.
Prosecutors said it was an AK-47 round that killed Hernandez and a co-defendant testified for the prosecution that Rhodes was carrying an AK-47 that night.
Assistant Prosecutor Kevin Trapp asked for a sentence of at least 30 years to life for Rhodes.
“Such a sentence, while harsh, sends a message — ‘If you do play with guns, all lives involved will be affected,’” Trapp said.
Nivea Ramos, Hernandez’s mother, said the verdict means she can begin to heal.
“My daughter is now resting and this will give us some closure, and I appreciate that.”
Cassese asked the judge to take into consideration that multiple people were involved in the shooting.
Judge Donofrio noted Rhodes only has a seventh-grade education and no family to speak of, but added that he’s also shown no remorse.
Donofrio said the crime is one that resonates heavily in a community like Youngstown, which sees a lot of retaliatory gun violence.
“How can anyone in Youngstown feel safe because of the consequences that follow these kinds of shootings?” the judge questioned.
A total of three co-defendants testified for the prosecution during the trial. Three more defendants have yet to have their cases resolved.
Prosecutors said they could not comment on what sparked the feud between Smith and the group that killed Hernandez until the cases against the other three defendants are completed.