Fed up citizens fight for maximum penalty after crime spree terrorizes neighborhood

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- Central West End residents showed up at the courthouse when a criminal responsible for a neighborhood crime spree was sentenced. They want the judge to know how crime affects not only the victims’ lives but their lives too.

It was 2 years ago in November, when two men attacked and robbed five people in less than two hours.  One of the suspects was sentenced Tuesday afternoon, and CWE residents were not about to let it pass without comment.

Isabella Lovadina is in charge of organizing CWE neighbors.  She led seven people to the courthouse downtown where Laron Eason was to be sentenced for his part in the crime spree.  Lovadina said, “Let the judge know how these crimes affect the individual victims and the neighborhoods as a whole.”

It was about her 40th time she attended a court proceeding since January.  People who live and work in the Central West End believe letting judges know how crime affects their lives is worth it.  Derek Gamlin owns a CWE restaurant, “I feel a lot safer. I truly think it pays to have someone go down and cares about this and kind of have somebody on our side the citizen’s side.”

The program is not new, but there are renewed efforts to get more St. Louis neighborhoods involved. Right now about a dozen take part although there are 79 city neighborhoods.  The program gives judges more to consider when sentencing.  Lovadina said, “I do feel like they're being held accountable more when the neighborhood comes together.”

In Eason’s case the state asked for 20 years. The defense wanted only 10 for the young suspect.  The judge gave Eason 20 years in prison.  Jeffrey Ernst is an assistant circuit attorney, “I think it gives the judge more information so they can make a well rounded decision that they get a perspective they otherwise might now have. I think that at times if they don’t hear from the community their perspective gets lost.  Although the Central West End is becoming more active in this crime fighting efforts, Dutch Town apparently holds the top spot for citizens getting involved and showing up in courtrooms.