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Survivors, family in newspaper attack relieved by verdict

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — More than three years after the attack on the Capital Gazette newspaper that left five dead, survivors and family members of victims embraced in relief and applauded the jury for quickly rejecting the gunman’s plea of not criminally responsible by reason of insanity.

Outside the courthouse Thursday, Andrea Chamblee described the widespread pain and loss from one of the deadliest attacks on journalists in the U.S.

“It ripples all over — the county, the state and the country,” said Chamblee, whose husband John McNamara was slain. “There are a lot of people who couldn’t be here today, because they have to choke on their own words when they talk about this horrific crime.”

The gunman, Jarrod Ramos, now faces five life terms in prison instead of being sent to a maximum-security mental health facility, where he could potentially have been released one day.

“Today, we thank the jury for their service for listening to the dizzying testimony, for viewing the horrific videos,” Chamblee said, referring to graphic surveillance footage of the rampage.

The jury of eight men and four women needed less than two hours to reject arguments from Ramos’ lawyers and their mental health witnesses that he could not understand the criminality of his actions when he attacked the newsroom on June 28, 2018.

The verdict dispelled any lingering doubt for the victim’s families that Ramos might somehow avoid prison.

“It’s been a never-ending nightmare,” said Cindi Rittenour, sister of Rebecca Smith, one of the dead. “And then hearing that today — just all my anxiety over it, all the wonderings, the unknowns, it’s all gone away now, and all I feel is just relief and happiness. I feel like my sister can finally start to rest in peace.”

Wendi Winters, Gerald Fischman and Rob Hiaasen also died in the attack.

Paul Gillespie, a photojournalist at the paper, said he suffers from PTSD, anxiety and depression since the attack. In court, he described the breeze of shotgun pellets whizzing by as he fled the newsroom to safety.

“With this being over now, I’m hoping things get a little better, but I don’t know what the future holds,” Gillespie said.

“He’s evil; he’s not crazy. He deserves to be in prison, and I hope he gets all five life terms,” he said of Ramos.

Judge Michael Wachs did not set a date for sentencing, but estimated it would take place in about two months.

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