A local man who admitted to killing an off-duty NOPD officer and four other people is sentenced to 30 years in prison. The victims' families are upset -- they say they did not get justice.
It's hard to imagine that Steven Hardrick, convicted of charges related to five killings, could get just 30 years in jail. But prosecutors and a federal judge felt they had no other choice.
"I'm disappointed. My husband was an honest police officer and a hard-working man, loyal police officer... to get 30 years is very concerning," said Lynette Dukes, the wife of slain officer Thelonious Dukes.
Hardrick pleaded guilty to charges related to the five killings in a crime spree back in 2007. Dwayne Landry was one of his victims in October of that year, killed by his own 9mm handgun.
"There are just so many different things that they didn't take into consideration, like my brother's weapon used in so many different situations... how can you explain it?" asked Landry's brother, Theodore Robinson.
Casings from the weapon taken from Landry were found at the scene of Dukes' murder.
"My life has changed drastically... I have a 12-year-old son I have to raise without a father," said Lynette Dukes.
Casings from the same weapon were also found at a 2007 triple murder on Explorers Avenue in New Orleans East.
Dukes' brother Leroy said, "Hardrick's family claims they had a hard life, but I grew up without a father, my brother grew up without a father and my mother worked hard."
Hardrick's defense attorney argued successfully that 30 years was a good deal, because the case was riddled with false confessions and a lack of hard evidence. But Leroy Dukes said, "My brother did not receive justice today."
In some cases, the murder victims knew the killer personally. "He sat in our house and ate, and played video games... Dwayne trusted him as a friend," said Landry's brother, Theodore Robinson.
Federal Judge Sarah Vance described the plea agreement as "extremely difficult, if not repellent," but she signed it anyway.
Lynette Dukes said, "She said she followed the guidelines, and she didn't seem pleased."
"I'm happy that some justice is done. 30 years is not enough, but we'll just have to accept it," said Landry's aunt, Laverne Milton.
Theodore Robinson said, "All five families, we will have to deal with it for 30 years. Steve will be 57 when he's released.'
It's unfair, relatives say, because they will never get their loved ones back.
At one time, two other people were arrested for Duke's killing when one of them was found in possession of the murdered officer's gun. But the charges against them were not sustained.