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Joseph Kearns sentenced to 21 years to life in fatal stabbing of mom, attack on sister

Joseph Kearns is led out of the Third

Joseph Kearns is led out of the Third Precinct in Bay Shore for arraignment in Central Islip on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014. Credit: Ed Betz

A sister of the Babylon man sentenced Monday to 21 years to life for fatally stabbing his 79-year-old mother told the court she will never feel safe again because of him.

"Joseph took away my feelings of safety and security," said Peggy Parrish, 56, the older sister of Joseph Kearns. "He took away my mom."

Kearns, 33, stabbed Mina Kearns more than 20 times in the torso in the Sept. 12 attack. He also stabbed his other sister, Kathleen Kearns, 59, at the home where the three lived, authorities said.

Kearns, who had been held without bail, pleaded guilty May 21 to second-degree murder and attempted murder.

State Supreme Court Justice Richard Ambro on Monday in Riverhead sentenced Kearns to 21 years to life on the murder charge and 5 to 15 years -- to run concurrently -- on the attempted murder charge.

Kearns will be eligible for parole after 21 years. Prosecutors had requested he receive the maximum sentence of 25 years to life.

Before sentencing, prosecutor Nancy Clifford read a statement on behalf of Kathleen Kearns, who Clifford said could not attend court Monday because she has multiple sclerosis and she was further disabled by the attack.

In her letter, Kathleen Kearns requested the judge give the maximum sentence.

Joseph, who neighbors have said was adopted more than 30 years ago by Mina and her husband, also named Joseph, lived in the house at the time "but mostly stayed in his room," Kearns said.

Kathleen, the eldest of 15, said in the letter that at the time most of the siblings did not visit the home because of Joseph's frightening behavior.

Kearns' Lake Grove attorney Thomas Foy has said his client had a "psychiatric history" since his youth, was on daily medication, and was seeing a psychiatrist.

The night before the attack, Kathleen Kearns wrote that she and her mother were watching TV when Joseph "sat in the room and just stared at us" in a threatening manner.

Kathleen Kearns wrote that after she went outside to make a phone call, she heard a commotion and Joseph Kearns yelling: "What are you going to do? Call the police?"

Police were summoned to the house, and Joseph Kearns left before they arrived. "She [Mina] told me Joseph would calm down," Kathleen Kearns wrote.

The next morning, Kathleen Kearns said, she woke up to Joseph Kearns stabbing her in the eye and head. She said he stopped and left the room after she lay still. She managed to leave her room when she said Joseph Kearns spotted her. "You're not dead yet?" she said Joseph Kearns asked her before taking her cane and "bashing" her in the head with it. She said she lay still again so he would think she was dead.

"I knew Mom was already dead," she wrote, adding that it was most likely her mother's spirit that gave her strength to get back up when it seemed safe to call for help.

After she read the note, Clifford told the court: "Joseph chooses to blame his mother for loving and caring for him and somehow this love pushed him to a murderous rage. His family and society must be protected from him."

Joseph Kearns spoke afterward, saying he lost control of himself because he thought his family wanted to put him in a facility for the mentally ill.

"I thought my mom and sister were my enemies and I snapped."

Ambro said to him, "You've devastated this family." To which Joseph Kearns replied, "They're terrorized."

"All your mom tried to do was help you," Ambro said.

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