A Dorchester mother, whose son was killed two years ago, embraced the mother of her son’s murderer Ramon Dingle-Smith, at Suffolk Superior Court after he was sentenced to life without parole for the slaying.
The jury had convicted the 21-year-old Dingle-Smith for the March 2012 death of Jason Withers, 25.
In a moment that seemed to slow time and brought many in the courtroom to tears, the women stood hugging with the victim’s mother’s letting go with two words, “I’m sorry.”
Withers’ mother Tomi Cooper expressed compassion and regret for both families in a victim impact statement minutes before the sentence came down Monday,
“This is a difficult time for both of our families. Yes we wanted justice but I do not believe you are a vicious cold-blooded murder,” Cooper said.”I believe you got caught up in something out of control.”
Cooper said she wished Dingle-Smith had accepted a plea deal. If he had, she said, he could have been released after serving 15 to 20 years for her son’s death. And that would return at least one son to his mother, she said.
As she spoke, loud sobs echoed through the packed courtroom. Friends and family members of Dingle-Smith stood frequently, trying to get a better view of the defendant. Guards stopped them each time.
Cooper continued her statement as one man sobbed loudly and was escorted from the court.
She told the court she had finally summoned the courage to clean her son’s room a few weeks ago. She found cartons of cigarettes strewn across it when she entered.
“How many times have I told him not to smoke? I picked up my phone to give him a piece of my mind but then I remembered, he’s gone,” she said, pausing as she choked up.
“We lost Jason and your mom lost you,” Cooper continued. “Your mother, family will never be the same. Holidays will never be the same. There will be a seat empty at my dinner table and your mom’s life will be visiting days.”
Judge Sanders called the statement “very moving.”
“Dingle-Smith is very young and because he is so young, it is a tragedy that he will spend the rest of his life in jail,” she said. “This was a sensibly meaningless shooting.”
Dingle-Smith had been held without bail since his arrest. Withers died at Boston Medical Center.
Testimony from the eight-day trial proved Dingle-Smith shot Withers at an all-night convenience store on March 31, 2012 at 4:15 a.m. Prosecutors believe Withers was at the store keeping his girlfriend company and that he was targeted because of an outstanding debt.
As Dingle-Smith was escorted out of the court to begin his sentence, Withers mother passed around a box of tissues and then left the court crying.
See press release from Suffolk district attorney below:
Life Term in Grove Hall Murder
BOSTON, Feb. 3, 2014—The Dorchester man who gunned down 25-year-old Jason Withers inside a Grove Hall convenience store was sentenced today to life in prison, District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said.
After nearly three full days of deliberations, jurors late yesterday convicted RAMON DINGLE-SMITH (D.O.B. 6/21/92) of first-degree murder and unlawful possession of a firearm in connection with Withers’ 2012 slaying. Suffolk Superior Court Judge Janet Sanders today imposed the mandatory sentence for first-degree murder of life in prison without the possibility of parole. At the request of Assistant District Attorney Amy Galatis of the DA’s Homicide Unit, Sanders imposed a concurrent sentence of to four to five years in state prison for the firearm offense.
During eight days of testimony that began and ended last month, Galatis proved that Dingle-Smith drove a Ford Taurus to a now-closed 24-hour convenience store at 655 Warren St. in the early morning hours of March 31, 2012. He walked inside at about 4:15 a.m. and stood at the cash register briefly before leaving the store. Withers was present in the store at that time, keeping an employee friend company.
Approximately 10 minutes later, the evidence showed, Dingle-Smith approached the store on foot with the Taurus following slowly behind. Upon entering the store, he opened fire on Withers, Galatis proved. Dingle-Smith then fled on foot to Hartwell Street, where he was picked up by the same vehicle.
Withers suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the torso and was rushed to Boston Medical Center, where he died of his injuries.
Based on evidence developed by Boston Police homicide detectives, Suffolk prosecutors authorized a warrant for Dingle-Smith’s arrest later that summer. Included in that evidence were witness statements, surveillance images from multiple locations, and cell phone records that placed Dingle-Smith along the same path as the Taurus.
Rebecca Harris was the DA’s assigned victim-witness advocate. Dingle-Smith was represented by attorney Willie Davis.