GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The last of three people whose mandatory life sentence for a 1996 murder was overturned by a United States Supreme Court decision learned his fate Thursday.
Other than Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker, there was no one there to speak for Rodney Corp, the 61-year-old man who was shot to death almost 23 years ago.
But Robert Maze, who was 15 years old when he shot the innocent man, was there to offer his apology.
It was Feb. 1, 1996, when 16-year-old Saulo Montalvo drove friends Christopher Peltier and Robert Maze, both 15, to the former Westside Beer Kooler on Alpine Avenue NW with the intention of robbing it. As Montalvo sat in the car, Peltier robbed and Maze shot to death the clerk and made off with a paltry amount of money.
“This was not an armed robbery that had gone bad, this was basically an execution,” Kent County Judge Mark Trusock said, summing up the crime.
According to court records, Maze had the gun and the victim was shot twice.
All three received the mandatory sentence: life in prison without the possibility of parole. But since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled mandatory sentences for children to be cruel and unusual punishment, all three have had their sentences reduced. Montalvo saw his sentence reduced to 25 to 60 years and Peltier was resentenced to 35 to 60 years.
On Thursday, the judge heard from the killer who said it took a decade in prison for him to become a changed man.
“As an adult, I realize just how horrible my actions were and I also realize that no deserves to suffer the loss of a loved one the way they have,” Maze said.
Maze said he believes his original sentence was just, but thanked the judge for a second chance.
“I know that if I had been sentenced as a juvenile, I would have gotten out and continued to commit crimes,” Maze said. “I’m not a finished product but I will continue to work every day to become the best example of change I can possibly be.”
Maze was sentenced to 35 to 60 years in prison.
All three men convicted of Corp’s murder get credit for the 23 years they have spent behind bars, which means they could get out while they are still more than a decade younger than their victim.