ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — A man convicted of felony first-degree murder in the five killings known as the “1998 Labor Day Massacre” in Aurora has been resentenced 22 years later.
Alexander Pogosyan was 17 years and 11 months old on the day five people were shot and killed, execution-style, at two different homes on Sept. 7, 1998. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 1999.
However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that it was unconstitutional to sentence juveniles to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
After the 2012 ruling, a law was then passed in Colorado requiring that all juvenile offenders sentenced to life in prison have to be re-sentenced and eligible for parole in as little as 30 years and no more than 40.
‘I love my mom, but she died’
The killings took the lives of Zach Obert, Edgardo Morales Jr., Marissa Avalos, Greg Medla and Penny Medla Bowman.
After 22 years in prison, a now 41-year-old Pogosyan on Tuesday faced a judge and victims’ loved ones for re-sentencing.
Given the Supreme Court decision and the Colorado law that came after, Judge Eric Barclay White was faced with a decision to issue a new sentence of 30-50 years with 10 years parole or a re-sentencing of life with parole after 40 years.
Several victims’ loved ones addressed the court, sharing the trauma Pogosyan causes them daily and the additional pain this resentencing has brought upon them while pleading for the strongest sentence.
At just 7 years old, Kayla Reichert watched her mother get killed in front of her. Her brother was also murdered that day in the massacre. She presented her diary from the days after she lost her loved ones.
“It says, ‘I love my mom, but she died, I love you mom’ with the picture of me standing over her dead body bleeding out as I’m crying over it,” Reichert said.
Defense claims ‘scapegoat’ for murders
The defense asked that Pogosyan be given a lesser sentence and then once released or granted parole, they asked he be given directly to immigration to be sent to Russia for the rest of his life.
Defense attorneys argued the initial jury found Pogosyan guilty of first-degree felony murder. The judge said it is a ruling based on the idea that Pogosyan’s presence at these homicides made him guilty of the homicides, even without pulling the trigger.
A second suspect and coconspirator, 18-year-old Michael Martinez, was found shot to death on the day of these murders. The defense said he pulled the trigger in all five execution-style killings. Pogosyan was suspected but never charged in Martinez’s death, and the defense claimed he is the “scapegoat” for the murders because Martinez couldn’t face justice.
The judge ultimately ruled that Pogosyan will face five consecutive life sentences with the eligibility for parole after 40 years. However, the 40-year eligibility dates back to his original conviction from 22 years ago with additional credit of 285 pre-sentencing days in confinement.
“I was worried, I was worried for a second,” Reichert said. “The best outcome is still not a good outcome for our families. No matter what, we are still going to suffer.”
“I will be at every parole hearing,” she said. “I will be at every court ruling for the rest of his life.”