The first man who pleaded guilty in the brutal Lansdowne attack that left one man dead and his wife clinging to life has been re-sentenced.
Jaime Ayala, now 22, will now serve an active sentence of 43 years and five months incarceration, as opposed to the previously imposed life plus 40 year sentence, for his role in the March 22, 2009 attack on William and Cynthia Bennett in Lansdowne.
"I have weighed the varying roles of each of the co-defendants. There is one co-defendant who hasn't yet been charged," Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Plowman explained to the court when requesting the re-sentencing. "I believe it achieves some measure of justice and certainly some measure of equity."
The motion to reconsider Ayala's sentence, advocated for by both Plowman and defense attorney Corinne Magee, came in the wake of the sentencing of Ayala's co-defendant, Darwin Bowman. Bowman, who also pleaded guilty to first degree murder and aggravated malicious assault, was sentenced in July to 43 years and five months in prison.
“As horrible as this case is, my client himself did not directly harm the Bennetts,” Magee said.
Ayala and Bowman were two of the three perpetrators in the grisly 2009 attack that shocked the local community. In the early morning hours, Ayala, then 17, was driving Bowman and a third man, Anthony Rumont Roberts, in his white van when the three came across William and Cynthia Bennett, out for a morning walk. Roberts instructed Ayala to pull over and both Roberts and Bowman got out of the car and attacked the Bennetts. After they were done, Ayala then drove Bowman and Roberts from the crime scene and helped destroy evidence.
His skull split ear to ear, William Bennett did not survive the assault; autopsy reports indicate he died from blunt force trauma. Cynthia Bennett was found 15 minutes after the attack, nearly dead. She spent months in the hospital recovering and suffered some permanent damage.
In 2011, Ayala pleaded guilty to second degree murder and aggravated malicious wounding. Deviating from the sentencing guidelines, now retired-Judge James Chamblain sentenced Ayala to life plus 40 years.
Both Bowman and Ayala's sentences are contingent upon them testifying truthfully in the case against Roberts. Roberts has not been charged for the murder and assault, although he is currently incarcerated on other charges. It is expected he will be arraigned in this case soon.
“But the fact that you are testifying, you ought to be doing life,” Horne told Ayala. “Mr. Bowman ought to be doing life. What Mr. Roberts ought to be doing, I don't know.”
Horne also added the family “needs closure in this case.”
Plowman assured the court that his motion to reconsider had support from the Bennetts' two daughters and Cynthia Bennett herself.
“I would not make this request without the full support of Mrs. Bennett and her two daughters,” Plowman said.
Ayala and Magee acknowledged that, like Bowman, Ayala faces the remainder of his suspended life sentence if he does not cooperate with investigators, something Magee said he has done since his arrest, and keep the peace, both in and out of jail.