Wednesday June 27, 2012

The Bangladeshi national who killed a 73-year-old retired lunch lady in Hillsdale, N.Y., in November was sentenced to 20 years to life on Tuesday.

During the sentencing hearing in Columbia County Court, Shafiqul Islam, 22, of Hudson, N.Y., told the family of the murder victim that if they could not forgive him he hoped God would.

In May, Islam pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and other charges for the Nov. 20 strangulation killing of Lois Decker in her home in Hillsdale, which is located over the state line from Egremont.

On Tuesday, several members of Decker’s family told the court about their shock and anger over what they called the pointless and brutal murder of a much loved sister, mother and grandmother.

Decker’s family also lashed out at Islam.

"There is a black mark on his soul that will follow him through this life and beyond," said Decker’s daughter, Dr. Diane Demarest. "I have to believe Mr. Islam will suffer for his crime."

Islam’s attorney, Michael Howard, read a statement by his client in which Islam admitted his guilt for the crime and apologized to the family.

Islam’s composure broke only once when he decided to speak after Howard read his statement.

"I wish I could bring peace to the hearts of those affected," he said, his voice cracking. "I’m sorry."

Judge Jonathan Nichols sentenced Islam to a minimum of 20 years and a maximum of life in state prison for what he called a "heinous" crime.

Islam was also sentenced to concurrent two- to four-year sentences on three counts of fourth-degree possession of stolen property.

He additionally agreed to pay about $20,000 in restitution to Decker’s family.

"I hope the parole board never releases you [from prison] and that you spend the rest of your life incarcerated," the judge told Islam.

The judge, in an unusual move, had murder scene photographs included in the presentence report that will be given to the New York State Department of Corrections.

"They will follow him for the rest of his life," he said of the photographs.

No motive was ever determined in the killing.

Six weeks before Decker’s murder, Islam -- a convicted sex offender who was born in Bangladesh but grew up in New York -- was released from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, a move that was blasted by both Judge Nichols and Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka on Tuesday.

Nichols said Islam’s release was inexplicable and hoped immigration officials looked at this case and "took it upon themselves" to change the regulations.

Islam is a Level 2 sex offender who served a two-year state prison sentence after he was convicted in 2008 of promoting a sexual performance of a child, a felony. He had taken lewd photographs of a 12-year-old girl.

Ordered removed from the United States by a federal judge, Islam remained in custody with ICE after his release from prison, but was let go last October.

An ICE spokesman who spoke to The Eagle blamed Islam’s home country and a 2001 Supreme Court ruling that only allows people under removal orders to be held in ICE custody for up to 180 days. Bangladeshi officials allegedly dragged their feet about getting travel documents for Islam.

But Czajka said this excuse "didn’t hold water" since ICE can take other factors, including risk of flight and danger to the community, into account when determining whether to hold a detainee longer than 180 days.

The DA said he believed a "child abuser" fit that description and that ICE "screwed up big time."