The Hempstead man who killed a father of two in front of a village deli in a 2015 shooting tearfully begged forgiveness from the victim’s family Wednesday, sparking an outburst in court as one grieving relative loudly rejected his apology.
“Please find it in your hearts to understand I made a grave mistake and have to live with it the rest of my life,” James Marckesano, 26, told the family of victim Victor Benitez, 28, before a judge sentenced him to 16 years in prison for manslaughter.
Marckesano’s apology was too much for one of Benitez’s sisters to bear as the victim’s relatives mourned a man they remembered in Nassau County Court as someone without whom their family “will forever be broken.”
Jennifer Benitez, 25, stood and swore at Marckesano, before court officers physically ejected her from the Mineola courtroom.
Tears dripped down the defendant’s face as he kept speaking about his actions on the early morning of July 4, 2015.
“I pray to God that forgiveness will find its way into your souls,” Marckesano told the Benitez family. “ . . . I’m truly sorry for my actions and the pain that I have caused.”
But Yesenia Benitez, 23, another of the victim’s five younger sisters, said later that her family cannot imagine granting forgiveness.
“The only way we could forgive him is the day we can hug our brother again, which is never going to happen,” she said.
Another sister of the victim, Sonia Benitez, 19, told State Supreme Court Justice Robert McDonald that her brother’s daughter and son — now 7 and 10 — had “depended on their father for everything” and have been left to grow up “believing an angel is watching over them.”
Authorities said Victor Benitez suffered a gunshot wound to his chest outside Clinton Deli and Grocery, where his family said he had been buying food before work. He had jobs as a bar bouncer and a security company field supervisor and dreamed of becoming a police officer, relatives said.
Court records show a friend of Benitez’s told police the shooting happened after he and Marckesano exchanged words nearby when the friend leaned on a car and Marckesano “got in his face.”
The friend said he used pepper spray on Marckesano and fled after Marckesano walked to a vehicle and came back with a hand in his waistband. The friend also told authorities he recognized Marckesano from a decade earlier when they belonged to rival gangs, and that as he fled he saw the man fire what looked like a gun.
Police arrested Marckesano in Texas before his indictment on murder and weapon charges.