Accused gang members sentenced to decades in prison
NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - "It's been five years, and so we've had five years of grief," says Bishop Andre Massenburg.
The parents of 18-year-old Joseph Massenberg will never forget their son. He was an AmeriCorps volunteer shot and killed in the Leonidas neighborhood in an apparent case of mistaken identity.
"He was a different type of kid. He was very loving. It was his decision to come here and help out. We thought it was great. Most young kids, coming to volunteer would not be their first choice, but that was his first choice," says Sharon Massenburg.
Only a month after arriving in New Orleans, Joseph lost his life as he walked home back in 2013. His killers were accused members of the Mid-City Killers gang.
A judge sentenced 25-year-old Dwayne Miller and 23-year-old Glen Emerson to 40 years in prison. Richard Ward, age 20, was sentenced to 20 years.
"We forgave them for what they did. That was important to us. Our faith in God requires that we forgive, but it was important for them to know about redemption that they have the opportunity to turn their lives around," says Andre Massenburg.
All three men pleaded guilty in the case that involved five fatal shootings. Another victim in the case was Lawrence Burt.
"It was a hard pill for me to swallow. Lawrence was well-loved. He just came down to visit my family and was an innocent bystander in a drive-by shooting they had going on," says Alexandia Burt.
Lawrence's mother, Alexandia, says she too is willing to forgive, but her heart is heavy.
"Like I told the young men, I'll forgive you, but I won't ever forget you because you took a part of me when you took him," she says.
All three men were facing life in prison but instead pleaded guilty to the amended charges of manslaughter, which led to less time. Both families say they're satisfied with the sentences.
"Their lives are over and they were young. One was a minor at the time. I think between now and 40 years from now, they could make a difference," says Sharon.
"Justice was served and it gave me a relief and I don't have to return to New Orleans ever again now," says Alexandia.