DOVER, N.H. - The family of murdered Madbury teen Aaron Wilkinson have sobbed and wept their way through three trials the past several months.
Tuesday at the sentencing of two of the three co-conspirators in the grizzly June 2014 stabbing death of her son, however, Wilkinson's mother, Paula, eloquently and passionately said she wanted everyone to know about who her son was and how he died, terrified and alone.
Both Zachary "D.J." Pinette, 20, of Springvale, Maine; and Michael Tatum, 22, of Barrington, N.H., were sentenced to at least 30 years in state prison for second-degree murder. The ringleader of the trio, Tristan Wolusky, 19, of Rochester, was found guilty last month of first-degree murder. He will serve life with no possibility of parole.
But Tuesday was more about remembering the victim in the case than doling out the sentences of the guilty.
|Aaron Wilkerson (Courtesy image)|
"He was my only child. There will be no other," Paula Wilkerson said during her statement to a courtroom hushed but for an occasional sob or soft whimper. "He was the joy of my life. He was high-spirited as a child and as he got older he developed a quirky sense of humor."
As Tatum watched her speak, occasionally looking down at the floor, she continued.
"He was a skateboarder, a skier and a sweet kindhearted generous person, and a free thinker.
"My life stopped on June 21, 2014," Paula Wilkerson said, her voice shaking. "Aaron's friends and family have been scarred forever. I have panic attacks, nightmares and I can't sleep through the night. Our lives will never be the same without Aaron.
"The worst thing is Aaron died terrified and alone," she said, by people he had known since middle school.
Paul Wilkerson also said her son was known as a go-to guy who friends could count on if they got into trouble, whatever time the day or night.
Pinette's and Tatum's sentencings Tuesday were just hours apart: Pinette's at 11 a.m., Tatum's at 1:30 p.m.
The two along with Wolusky planned to rob Aaron Wilkerson of drugs and money and tricked him to come out of his house early in the morning of June 21, 2014, under the pretense Wolusky was having car trouble.
As the four were talking, Wolusky tackled Wilkerson and Tatum and Pinette both began stabbing Wilkerson, some 22 times with knives and a machete in the back, neck, head and legs.
Afterward the three then drove to Lebanon where they dumped his body along Long Swamp Road.
Prosecutors gave Tatum and Pinette plea deals that may allow them parole in 30 years in exchange for their testimony against Wolusky, who has never admitted to his role in the killing.
Both Tatum's and Pinette's charges of falsifying physical evidence and robbery were suspended.
At the end of both sentencing hearings, Judge Houran asked Pinette and Tatum, separately, if they understood the sentence. As soon as each said yes, they were remanded back into custody to begin their long time behind bars.
Pinette read a short statement apologizing for what he did, but Tatum's lawyer said his client had wanted to say something but was emotionally unable to speak.
Judge Houran, himself, seemingly overcome with emotion at times, expressed his condolences and sympathies to the Wilkerson family and thanking them for being there through the whole trial process.
"Words cannot express my sympathies to the family," he said.
Wolusky's sentencing is scheduled for next month.