CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE - A 25-year-old Pennsylvania man was sentenced to 20 years in prison for shooting a Wildwood man in February 2011 and leaving him to die in his apartment.
Jason Thorn, of Glenolden, Pa., was setenced in accordance with a plea deal he agreed to in May when he pleaded guilty to first-degree aggravated manslaughter in the Feb. 1 slaying of Joshua Palumbo.
In sentencing Thorn, Judge Raymond Batten called the shooting a "drug deal gone bad," in which Thorn aimed to steal 14 Percocet pills from Palumbo, shooting the 29-year-old Wildwood man and leaving him to die in his Spicer Avenue apartment.
Thorn, attempted to withdraw his plea Thursday
"First of all, I'm not guilty," said Thorn when Batten questioned him about his motives.
Thorn went on to say that he had lied under oath when he previously admitted to shooting Palumbo, and that he was not confident in his defense attorney, Scott Sherwood, because he had never tried a homicide case.
Chief Assistant Prosecutor Rob Johnson said Thorn originally pleaded guilty because the state found a witness that Thorn did not think they would be able to find, and he asked Batten to uphold the original plea.
If Thorn had been convicted in trial, he faced a life sentence without chance of parole for at least 30 years. Under his sentence imposed by Batten on Thursday, he must serve at least 17 years of his sentence before parole, of which he has already been credited with 510 days in jail.
Thorn, who has a 3-year-old child, will have 45 days from Thursday to appeal.
In rendering his decision, Batten read a long list of Thorn's prior offenses. He had been arrested 17 times in the past 12 years, accumulating nine indictable offenses as an adult and six charges as a juvenile.
Johnson said Thorn was in Wildwood because he was fleeing the law after he crashed a rental car and lit it on fire. After shooting Palumbo, he fled back to Pennsylvania, and he was arrested three days later in Tinicum Township, Pa., in possession of a handgun.
Thorn shot Palumbo once with a 9mm Luger, the bullet entered his shoulder, traveled into his lung, severed a vein and was lodged in his spinal column, Johnson said. He was discovered dead a day later.
Batten said Thorn had a history of drug and alcohol use dating to when he was 10 years old, and that he previously admitted to being high on marijuana and the anti-anxiety pill Xanax when he shot Palumbo.
Johnson said a mutual friend of the two men put them in touch with each other so Thorn could buy the Percocets prescribed to Palumbo, which he said would have a street value of approximately $175.
Thorn chose not to speak twice when Batten offered him a chance to speak on his behalf or reply to comments from Palumbo's family.
Palumbo's sister, Jennifer, sobbed deeply as she read a statement before the court and said her children would never grow up to love the uncle holding them in those pictures.
"When a loved one is ripped away from you so quickly without warning or reason, that person is only the first innocent victim," she said.
Joshua Palumbo's sister-in-law, Danielle, also read a statement, calling Joshua a kind and caring son, brother and role model.
"We all have been sentenced to a life of pain," she said. "Why, your honor, should Mr. Thorn serve any less?"
Before his brother’s death, the Palumbo family had always looked forward to February as a month filled with birthdays and good memories. Joey Palumbo said
"The first day of February is a constant reminder that Joshua Palumbo was murdered by this young man sitting here today," said Palumbo in tearful remarks during Thorn's sentencing.