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Man who killed 5 at Maryland newspaper sentenced to life behind bars

Jarrod Ramos, 41, was sentenced to six life prison terms for the rampage at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis in 2018.
Image: Shooting reported at Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Md.
Emergency personnel stand outside the Capital Gazette newspaper office in Annapolis, Md., on June 28, 2018.Joshua McKerrow / Capital Gazette/TNS via Getty Images file

A Maryland man who fatally shot five people in a 2018 attack at the Capital Gazette newspaper was sentenced Tuesday to life behind bars without the possibility of parole.

Jarrod Ramos, 41, pleaded guilty in 2019 to all 23 counts against him, but he pleaded not criminally responsible, which is Maryland's version of an insanity plea.

A jury in July found that he was criminally responsible.

Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Michael Wachs said he was struck by Ramos' lack of remorse for the carnage he carried out in Annapolis more than three years ago.

“The impact of this case is just simply immense,” Wachs said. “To say that the defendant exhibited a callous and complete disregard for the sanctity of human life is simply a huge understatement.”

Ramos killed Rob Hiaasen, 59, deputy editor; Gerald Fischman, 61, editorial page editor; sports reporter and editor John McNamara, 56; Wendi Winters, 65, a reporter; and Rebecca Smith, 34, a sales assistant.

Ramos, who was formally sentenced to six life prison terms and 345 years behind bars, declined to address the court during Tuesday's hearing. That sixth life sentence was for the attempted murder of photographer Paul Gillespie.

"For the victims’ families and survivors, this day was a long time coming and closes what I hope will be the final legal chapter on a case that impacted the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County community and beyond," Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess said in a statement after sentencing. "But, I know the healing for all will continue and many will struggle to move forward."

Ramos opened fire at the Annapolis newspaper’s office June 28, 2018, with a pump-action shotgun, in what officials called an act of revenge after the newspaper reported a criminal harassment case that involved him.

Survivors of the shooting and loved ones of the victims told Wachs how that day permanently changed their lives.

Montana Winters Geimer, Winters' daughter, described the emotional torture she suffered before finally learning her mom had died in the carnage.

“The day she died was the worst day of my life,” Geimer told the court. “The hours spent not knowing if she was alive or dead have lived in my nightmares ever since.”

Geimer said she and the people of Annapolis had lost a valuable voice.

“We lost the storyteller of our family, and as a community we lost the storyteller for everyone that is an Annapolitan,” the daughter added.

Ramos sued the newspaper and a reporter in a defamation case in 2012 after it reported that Ramos had pleaded guilty to the harassment of a high school classmate. A judge threw out Ramos' lawsuit.

Ramos had ranted online against the newspaper, and in 2013, the newspaper filed complaints of harassment against him. But in agreement with the Capital Gazette, police halted the investigation for fear that it would provoke him further, police have said.

Defense attorneys argued that Ramos has a delusional disorder, as well as autism and obsessive-compulsive disorder, and that he grew obsessed with the idea that the article ruined his life.

Prosecutors said he planned out the attack and methodically entered the newsroom and "executed a revengeful act against innocent victims," Leitess has said.

Defendant Jarrod Ramos appears in court, in Annapolis, Md.
Defendant Jarrod Ramos, in green, appears in court, in Annapolis, Md., on June 29.Kevin Richardson / The Baltimore Sun via AP file

Ramos pleaded guilty to 23 counts, including five counts of first-degree murder.

He shot out the newsroom's doors and entered the building where he killed his victims, officials said.

Flags were flown at half-staff at the U.S. Capitol in honor of those killed, and Gov. Larry Hogan has proclaimed June 28 as Freedom of the Press Day in their memory.

The Capital Gazette was honored with a Pulitzer Prize citation for the response of the journalists and staff in the wake of the attack.