In a Riverhead courtroom, Cynthia Sellitto told the man who gunned down her daughter in an apparent jealous rage that the family hasn’t had a day of peace since.
“My life sentence as a mother: I am haunted every single day by the fact that I was not there to save her, to take the bullet for her,” she said.
Jose C. Rodriguez, 34, of Ridge, was sentenced Friday to 30 years to life in prison for fatally shooting Kimberly Sellitto, 36, his live-in girlfriend, then firing shots at responding police officers in November 2013.
Sellitto had been taking steps to end the relationship because Rodriguez was too controlling and jealous, her family said.
“I will never understand — why murder? Why kill her? You could have walked away,” the victim’s mother told the defendant in court.
Rodriguez expressed remorse for the killing, saying, “I want to say I’m sorry.”
He will concurrently serve sentences of 25 years to life for second-degree murder and 30 years to life for attempted aggravated murder of a police officer.
Before imposing the sentence, state Supreme Court Justice William Condon told Rodriguez: “You killed the person closest to you on this Earth in cold blood, in front of the kids, while she was running away.”
Suffolk County prosecutors said Rodriguez shot Sellitto in the back on Nov. 17, 2013, in their apartment at Brookwood at Ridge as she ran from him, screaming for help. When she went down, he shot her again in the head.
He then barricaded himself and his two children inside the apartment before firing at cops, who arrived to find Sellitto’s body in the street. Police negotiated the release of the children; Rodriguez surrendered after a 90-minute standoff.
Rodriguez, who pleaded guilty in December, faced 65 years to life if convicted at trial.
Cynthia Sellitto, 62, of Cheshire, Connecticut, said the family now has two lives — “before or after Kim’s murder.” The present, she said, is filled with grief and pain.
“Our lives ended that day,” she said of the murder.
Kimberly Sellitto, who worked as a retail store manager, was about to earn a criminal justice degree. She was gregarious, and loved the beach and spending Christmas with her family, especially her young nephew and niece, the family said.
After the killing, Allison Sellitto, 35, of Cheshire, recalled her son, now 5, asking when his aunt was coming over.
“It broke my heart to tell him that she had to go away and that she lived in the stars,” she said in court.
Now she said her son, before going to bed, looks to the stars and says, “Good night, Auntie Kimmi.”