Judge formally sentences Pittsburgh synagogue shooter to death

PITTSBURGH — After a jury recommended the death penalty for Pittsburgh synagogue shooter Robert Bowers, survivors and the loved ones of victims had the opportunity to address him directly Thursday before the judge formally handed down the sentence.

Related Coverage >> Family, friends, & officials react to death sentence for Pittsburgh synagogue shooter

“I have nothing specific that I care to say to Mr. Bowers,” U.S. District Judge Robert Colville said before issuing the formal sentence. “I am however convinced there is nothing I could say to him that might be meaningful.”

Grieving families confronted Bowers in court before Colville pronounced the sentence, describing the pain and suffering he had inflicted, and calling him evil and cowardly. Bowers was in a red jumpsuit with his ankles shackled. He never once looked up at the people speaking.

If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health effects from the trial, go to 1027healingpartnership.org to find help resources. As always, call 911 to report threats.

Judge Colville thanked everyone for being “patient and grateful for respect” throughout the last two months.

PHOTOS: Victims’ families, survivors speak following death penalty verdict in Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

The following are excerpts from the impact statements read by victims’ families and survivors:

Deane Root/Dor Hadash

“I have tried to heal, but I did not recover enough to regain my abilities and resume my work and I had to retire.”

“I lost the career that was my core mission over 50 years nurturing new generations of students, scholars and teachers, but the shooting also had physical effects.”

“I would ask to the fullest extent under the law, that person be restricted for the rest of his days for zero access to the internet, print or broadcast and even spoken words referencing his actions.”

Dan Leger/Survivor

“Thank you to the defense team for valuing life even if their defendant does not.”

“I could only wish Mr. Bowers would look at me, stop the scribbling on his page, to look at me, the Jew he tried to kill.”

“I am alive today and it’s a miracle. I’m grateful every morning, but I live every day wondering why I didn’t pull my friend, Jerry Rabinowitz, in the direction our friend Marty Gaynor went.”

“It has moved people to form friendships and give support in countless ways. We’ve spent the past many weeks giving witness to a story that needed told in the hope it won’t happen again.”

“I chose the words of my dear friend Jerry: It is better to be kind than it is to be right.”

Jared Younger/Irv’s son

Opens with a prayer and has carried a bible in court throughout the days I’ve seen him.

“I remember the day so vividly. I check my phone and it’s a text from my sister saying, ‘Call me ASAP.’”

“Those words didn’t process, they didn’t register and the same words came back and it clicked. I dropped to my knees and that was the start of the most tearful day of my life.”

“I remember holding my head and saying, ‘Now is time to make it right, Dad.”

“All the pain and anxiety and health issues, I want to say to you, Robert Bowers I completely forgive you.”

“I love Eric, Soo, Troy, Judy, all these broken-hearted families. I love everyone in this courtroom and Robert Bowers is no exception.”

Sharyn Stein/Dan’s wife

“My whole world fell apart and my life would never be the same.”

“Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months and months turned into years. He wasn’t just my husband, he was my life.”

“Our family will now keep Danny’s memory alive, showing pictures, sharing stories and remembering the good days.”

Diane Rosenthal/Cecil and David’s sister

Starts by thanking the prosecution team.

“To you, Judge Colville, we appreciate the command you’ve held over this court. Your patience and careful consideration was grateful from our family.”

Michael Hirt/Diane’s husband

“Doing your job is one thing, but your affection (to) the defendant right in front of us was just plain wrong.” (talking to the defense)

“We would like to remind you that the only conversations our family has with the boys only happens at the cemetery.”

“You were never man enough to look up at us during the trial. Let me repeat, never man enough. I wonder now if you are man enough to look up at us……I didn’t think so.”

Robert Kennedy/Michele’s husband

“I wonder what your Pop Pop who served would have to say now.”

Michele Rosenthal/Cecil and David’s sister

“Need we remind him that we are all immigrants in this country.”

“We, our family, on October 27th, will make a donation in his name each year to an immigrant organization, like HIAS, and we will mail him a receipt.”

Rabbi Doris Dyen/Dor Hadash

“We have been members of Dor Hadash since 1987.”

“After the massacre, I felt numb for a long time. I couldn’t cry.”

“As a Rabbi, I value life. I am opposed to the death penalty, but this shooter has shattered my ability to have that opinion.”

Marty Gaynor/Survivor

“My world was shattered on October 27th, 2018. Something I had never imagined would happen to me that should never happen to anyone, happened.”

“For me, time was forever changed. The impact has been profound. The best way I can describe it was I had no skin on my body and every nerve was exposed.”

“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about what happened on October 27th, what I might have done differently, what I might have done to save others.”

“Much of my fears have faded but they aren’t gone.”

“We know from bitter experience that it only takes one person putting hate in their heart to cause harm.”

Steve Weiss/Survivor

“I now attend synagogue armed. I will not be vulnerable.”

“The criminal act of October 27th, 2018, impacted all three congregations. None of us will be the same, we are all diminished by the loss of our congregants and the terror brought to our lives.”

Audrey Glickman/Survivor

“Our friends were killed in front of us. People we knew and had known for years. People not only prayed but broke bread.”

“His crimes cannot be separated from his speech.”

“Many said under their breath, the fear of Covid was second to their fear of antisemitism. We were at war and he fired the opening shots.”

“He had gotten away with killing 11 of us and we were on a battlefield. He came in firing as if we were already at war.”

“This scum of a creature of a defendant is less than nothing. He has caused pain for no reason with no hesitation. He represents actions that we must absolutely stop cold.”

“Two died waiting for this trial. Can we really say that living through this trauma didn’t contribute to their ends?”

“What is the purpose of the death penalty? I think it’s to cut them off cleanly from the society.”

“He broke a truce. He is a villain, even in his own war.”

“Did he destroy us? I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. I can’t quantify the impact this individual has it’s been personal and negative.”

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers/TOL Rabbi and Survivor

“I am in a position of being a survivor and the rabbi of a congregation.”

“I feel like I’ve been in a state of limbo for the last four years and nine months.”

“My wife can’t attend court after the day I testified. Suffering in silence as a category of ignored victims of this heinous crime.”

“I could not drive by the building for more than a year. The Tree of Life died that day. While there was incredible support to rebuild and fight against antisemitism. My beloved synagogue right in front of me is the 12th victim.”

“Seventy percent of my minion was taken that day and that is irreplaceable.”

“This day may be the last nail in the coffin of the Tree of Life.”

“In the end, your honor, regardless of the penalty, we are left to pick up the shards, the pieces of glass left.”

Anthony Feinberg/Joyce’s son

“I got to know and pray with seven of the 11 while mourning my father.”

“This was not just a mass killing, but a religiously motivated one.”

Feinberg plans to transmit Judaism from generation to generation is the legacy he carries on.

Sgt. Jonathan Craig/Pittsburgh Police Officer

“It felt no matter what I could do, I couldn’t get down that street fast enough.”

“Andrea was lying in a puddle of her blood and her mother’s.”

Craig was friends with Matson for 15 years. They were even patrol partners in Zone 5.

“I turned around and met up with the rest of my team knowing I couldn’t see how hurt my friend was.”

“I couldn’t help thinking how cowardly. He wanted help and mercy yet showed no mercy.”

“It took every ounce of strength I had not to stoop to his level.”

Craig went to the hospital every day for five months to visit Matson and he lived with him when he got out of the hospital.

“He often referred to my house as the nicest jail cell in Sheraden.”

“I saw the toughest men and women I know brought to tears.”

Craig received nods from family members after he said no one will have closure but they will have a sense of relief.

Officer Michael Smidga/Pittsburgh Police Office

“The hardest part about all of this is the hatred and rage and the sadness when I saw that defendant for the first time after four and a half years.”

“I wrote so much to say, but I don’t know what to say except no man should have that much influence on the way he impacted these people. I speak with humanity but it’s not human.”

“I just can’t express my sorrow for the victims and families. Their impact statements are more impactful to me than they ever will be to him.”

Peg Durachko/Richard Gottfried’s wife

“Mr. Bowers you met my beloved husband in the kitchen, your callous disregard for who he was repulses me.”

“Your hateful act took my best friend, beloved, and family from me, it left me alone.”

“Rich was the most important person in my life, my soulmate.”

“What did you do instead, you riddled his body with bullets, for what?”

“You have chosen darkness and evil. You got a brief moment of power, you’ve held on to it.”

“You were in his house that day and God’s power is in humility, good, and love. Every one of those people you shot that day had humility.”

Debi Salvin/Richard Gottfried’s twin sister

“Rich Gottfried wasn’t just my brother, he was my twin.”

“Now that he is dead, I no longer have him to celebrate with.”

“I have known forms of antisemitism my whole life, but I never worried about my safety, I do now.”

Carol Black/Richard Gottfried’s sister & survivor

“My last words being I don’t know what I would do without my brother.”

“As for me, I am without my little brother, who was more than a brother, he was a friend.”

“I heard gunfire for months afterward. Wondering could I have done anything to save my brother, Dan Stein and Mel Wax.”

“The guilt I feel. I emerged from the building and my brother did not.”

“There is not a severe enough punishment for him. He is a burden on society.”

“I don’t want anyone to forget the names of our 11. Joyce Fienberg, Irv Younger, Dan Stein, Mel Wax, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Rose Mallinger, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Jerry Rabinowitz and my beloved brother, Richard Gottfried”

Alan Mallinger/Rose’s son

He first described the scene of his mother leaving that day as they prepared for family gatherings

“Rose was a simple person.”

“Her love for her family was unmatched.” “It was a life that should have been.”

“We should have been planning her 100th birthday, not making arrangements for her funeral.”

“A monster who was too insensitive to spare the life of a 97-year-old mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.”

“You, the person who has shown no remorse.”

“There will be no parade and no celebration for you. I won’t go into the details of our loss because you would enjoy it. I will paint a picture of the future we will have and you will not. We will live long lives past you.”

“You may think you took away our fight and determination, but you only fueled it.”

Andrea Wedner/Survivor & Rose’s daughter

“She died protecting me as any mother would.”

“In a blink of an eye, my life was changed.”

“I’m haunted and forever chilled. Not a day goes by. It was just a matter of inches and I could be dead.”

“The fact that someone targeted me and their beloved Bubbie because we are Jewish.”

“My scars are a reminder of what happened to me and my family, but they do not define me.”

“There is a man in this room that is a worthless piece of s***. It’s the man in the red suit. He’s pathetic.”

Marc Simon/Bernice & Sylvan Simon’s son

“My family suffered immeasurable life times two.”

“This is a permanent scar that weighs heavy, morning, day and night.”

“I have little life, my loving parents have nothing left.”

“Their only remains are eternal pain. Guilt that I couldn’t protect them as they were hunted down from THAT defendant.”

“That was all stolen from me.”

“You, that defendant, will never be forgiven.”

“I have my mother’s blood-stained pearls she wore on her wedding day and she wore as the defendant slaughtered her. Those pearls haunt me but I can’t part with them.”

“Yes, my life will go on, but it will not be the same. My life forever altered, permanently scarred.”

“To you, there will never be parades as you crazily thought, or medals, you are proud.”

“You will either die by the needle, isolation or at the hands of other inmates.”

“You singlehandedly destroyed your own life. Your voice will now be silenced.”

“There are no winners here.”

“What did the defendant accomplish, nothing.”

Simon begged the judge to give him no mercy as he gave the 11 no mercy.

Michelle Weis/Bernice & Sylvan Simon’s daughter

“Etched in my mind forever.”

“My parents are gone, how do I go on?”

“That monster robbed me of that day and every day since.”

Weis mentioned that this is the end of a chapter and now they have to learn to live day by day.

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The Associated Press contributed to this story.