As three of James DiMartino's young daughters watched in a Riverhead courtroom, a Suffolk prosecutor Tuesday choked up while reading their letters to a judge before a Nesconset man was sentenced to life in prison for their father's murder.
Ronald Thornton, 39, convicted of arranging the killing of his business partner, stood staring at his feet as DiMartino's wife and father spoke about the real estate attorney found shot dead on Oct. 20, 2008, in a Commack parking lot.
Thornton showed no emotion as Assistant District Attorney Nancy Clifford sniffed back tears while reading the words of DiMartino's daughters - Amanda, 14, Ashley, 12, and Alana, 8 - who sat in the second row with their mother and other family members. The DiMartinos' other child, Ava, 4, did not attend the sentencing.
"He used to tell me he loved me more than the galaxy. I used to tell him I loved him more than the universe," Amanda wrote. "I don't know how I can go on without him."
Thornton was convicted in March of first-degree murder and first-degree conspiracy for paying three people $10,000 to kill DiMartino, also of Nesconset, his partner in a fledgling mortgage business. He also was found guilty of conspiring to kidnap the daughter of a stripper who pleaded guilty to DiMartino's murder and agreed to testify against Thornton.
State Supreme Court Justice C. Randall Hinrichs sentenced Thornton to life in prison without parole for the murder conviction, and 8 1/3 to 25 years for each of the conspiracy counts.
Hinrichs said Thornton's murder plot showed "a complete absence of any conscience whatsoever."
Thornton, flanked by his attorneys, Glenn Obedin and Christopher Brocato of Central Islip, did not address the court. "He maintains that he had no part in that horrible tragedy," Obedin said in court. The attorneys for Thornton said they plan to appeal.
Before Hinrichs pronounced sentence, DiMartino's father, Joseph DiMartino, recalled his son's constant smile and love of life. He said he even missed debating his son about their favorite football teams, the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys.
Diane DiMartino said her husband was proud of his annual Christmas light display and of trees he grew in their backyard.
"Our house is now dark at Christmas. Most of our trees have died," she said. "The pain I feel every day is sometimes unbearable."