MAYS LANDING — Bonnie Kelsey’s Christmas tree is up today. For the first time since her nephew and only sister were brutally stabbed to death inside their Hammonton home 19 months ago, Kelsey would celebrate a holiday, knowing that the pair’s killer will never be free again.
Patrick Latko, 34, of Gloucester County, was sentenced Monday to two consecutive life sentences in the Nov. 3, 2011, killing of Ryan Patterson, 29, and his 64-year-old mother, Diana. He would have to live another 125 years to be eligible for parole.
Latko stabbed the mother and son more than 30 times altogether, slitting both their throats in a jealous rage because Latko believed Ryan Patterson was the one thing standing in the way of a reconciliation between him and his former girlfriend.
Diana Patterson’s grandchildren will never feel the tight, loving hugs of their Mom Mom again, her younger sister told the court. Ryan Patterson’s children would never be born. And now — because of the trial — their family is left with the horrific images of the bloody massacre that happened inside the home on South Madison Avenue.
“A place where you should feel safe,” Kelsey said. “It was unprovoked and they were defenseless.”
As was the case throughout his trial, Latko showed no emotion as Kelsey and victim-witness advocate Tricia Hayek spoke Monday of the immeasurable loss he caused. He chose not to address the court.
“Who are you, Mr. Latko?” Superior Court Judge Albert Garofolo asked before imposing the sentence. “What are you? ... Are you haunted by the pictures we all saw in this courtroom? Are you capable of experiencing that emotion? I think not, because I see a blank wall.”
But the pictures of Diana Patterson lying dead at the backdoor into her kitchen will remain with her family. The image of Ryan Patterson, in his room, a gaping wound at his throat made after he made a desperate call to 911 in hopes of getting help for him and his mother is ingrained in their memories.
“Those are now permanent scars on our hearts," Kelsey said.
And the call, which was played several times for jurors during the trial, capturing the final seconds of Ryan Patterson’s life, will also haunt them.
“I didn’t do anything to you,” he says on the tape. “I didn’t do anything.”
The state argued that the second statement was preceded by “Pat,” as the dying man identified his killer.
“I am now my sister’s voice,” Kelsey said Monday.
“We didn't do anything,” she said, looking toward Latko. “Remember those words?”
Latko’s aunt Edith Regler said he had “lived a hard life since the day he was born,” seeming to live under a dark cloud.
But “this isn’t how you respond to challenges in life,” Chief Assistant Prosecutor Cary Shill said, “by murdering two people.”
Garofolo went through Latko's criminal history, which included six domestic violence incidents and two violations of restraining orders, one in which he chased down a woman with his car, striking her vehicle.
“You, Mr. Latko, should never walk freely among us again,” Garofolo said.
Life sentences are considered 75 years, with 85 percent of that mandatory under the No Early Release Act. That means Latko would have to serve more than 126 years in prison to be eligible for parole.
Kelsey said her Christmas tree will have only white lights, honoring all of those who helped in the case.
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