Moments after a Yaphank man refused to face the families of the two men he killed, a Suffolk judge sentenced him Friday to 74 years to life in prison.
Reginald Ross, 37, was convicted last month of two counts of second-degree murder for the separate shootings of Raymond Hirt, 51, of Mastic Beach, and John Williams, 39, of Holbrook.
Ross shot Hirt, a road flagman, on May 24, 2010, a few weeks after they had a confrontation at a construction site. Prosecutors said Ross had been upset over being delayed at the site on Portion Road in Ronkonkoma.
He was also found guilty of shooting Williams on Oct. 14, 2010, with the hope of luring a friend of Williams, who owed Ross a drug debt, to the funeral, where Ross hoped to kill him, too.
State Supreme Court Justice William Condon sentenced Ross to the maximum of 25 years to life for each killing and added another 24 years on drug possession charges.
Ross refused to stay in the Riverhead courtroom when members of the victims' families addressed the court.
Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla said that was one last act of cowardice by a man who sneaked up on his victims in their cars and denied them the chance to defend themselves.
"I have never seen acts committed by a defendant that were more cowardly than those committed by Mr. Ross," Biancavilla told Condon. "This cowardice continues to this day, when Mr. Ross had the audacity to hide in a holding cell. He was too afraid to stand here and listen to the parents, the siblings, the members of the victims' families."
Those family members said their senses of security were forever shaken and their lives made poorer.
"I'd like to tell you a love story that began on Portion Road," Hirt's fiancee, Cathy Caiazza, told Condon, saying she was smitten by his smile as he held her up in traffic at the same site where he later argued with Ross. They made plans to marry and were living together, unaware that Ross was stalking Hirt the last weeks of his life.
"He was a father, a brother, a son, the love of my life," Caiazza said. "It's as if time is frozen on that day, and we live it over and over again."
Hirt's mother, Carol Hirt, said her family will not be broken by Ross.
"We are all going to die," said Carol Hirt, Raymond's mother. "It is all a matter of time. But it is not up to Mr. Ross to decide when your time is up."
Williams' mother, Patricia Williams, said she never dreamed that her oldest son's life would end with him dying in front of her, shot in the head in front of their house.
"The most despicable thing is the senselessness of John's death," she said. "John was just a pawn in a game he was playing."
Williams' sister, Dawn Skelton, said her brother was more than that. "John's life had value," she said. "He was loving, and he was loved."
After Ross returned to the courtroom, he and his attorney, John Scarpa Jr., insisted he was an innocent man who did not get a fair trial. Scarpa said the verdict was the result of an "utterly vulgar" prosecution that relied on criminals who got deals in return for their testimony.
Ross told Condon, who decided the case after Ross gave up his right to a jury trial, that it's impossible for a black man charged with killing white people to get a fair trial in Suffolk County.
"You think this court is racist?" Condon asked Ross.
"I do," Ross said.
"In my opinion, the right person is in jail," Condon said. "I have never seen greater or more callous disregard for human life than I've seen in this case."Scarpa said his client looked forward to winning an appeal.