3rd accomplice to store clerk’s murder gets lesser sentence

Clarence Laudenberger (Lancaster County District Attorney's Office)

LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) – A prison inmate sentenced to life as a teenager for the killing of a Lancaster store clerk in 1996 is eligible for parole.

Clarence Laudenberger, 38, was resentenced Wednesday to 21 years to life in prison. District Attorney Craig Stedman’s office said Laudenberger has already served more than 21 years in prison, so he’ll have a parole hearing and will likely be released.

Laudenberger was 16 when he and three other teens targeted a convenience store at Duke and Liberty streets for a robbery. Laudenberger was serving as a lookout when Aramis Gonzalez III, then 16, asked clerk Michael Heath for money then shot him to death.

Laudenberger was convicted of second-degree murder.

Rodney Lee Walton and Anthony Lewis (Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office)

Two co-defendants, Rodney Lee Walton and Anthony Lewis, were re-sentenced to 25 years to life last week. They’ll have to serve about four more years before parole hearings.

President Judge Reinaker pointed to Laudenberger’s “personal growth” and “greater rehabilitation” than the co-defendants who received longer sentences.

“No amount of good behavior will ever diminish the gravity of the fact that Michael Heath was murdered, his life ended by criminal choices, and that he died on the phone begging for help with his blood all over the store,” Stedman said in a statement. “He received a death sentence with no chance for reduction based on good behavior.”

A 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision deemed it cruel and unusual to sentence a juvenile to life without parole.

“I can tell you that Mr. Heath’s widow absolutely feels like she is being re-victimized by the system – because she is,” Stedman said. “It should not be this way. The sentence is what it is and yet another convicted murderer will be in the community very soon.”

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