‘Abundance of heartache and pain’: Man sentenced in killing of Schenectady artist Duane Todman

Schenectady artist Duane Todman and his art. He was fatally shot May 23, 2020.

Schenectady artist Duane Todman and his art. He was fatally shot May 23, 2020.

SCHENECTADY — The killing of Schenectady artist Duane Todman caused his family an “abundance of heartache and pain,” Todman’s sister Essence Todman told a judge Monday.

The violent murder of her younger brother also sent her mother, Michelle Hightower, into a deep depression that caused her health to decline, and she became withdrawn, Essence Todman told the court at the sentencing of her brother’s killer, Marlone Oindo.

Hightower had planned to speak at Monday’s sentencing, prosecutors said, but she died Feb. 18, just over two weeks before she would have said her piece.

“Sadly, we lost her long before that day,” Essence Todman wrote in the statement read aloud by the prosecutor. “That day in 2020 changed my mom forever. She stopped smiling, she never wanted to go out and she refused to celebrate any holidays, including her birthday. My mom suffered from major depression and her health completely declined. She could no longer work, which means she could no longer pay the bills like she was supposed to.

“Because of you,” Essence Todman’s written statement continued, “my family will forever be torn apart.”

Oindo, 23, pleaded guilty earlier to one count of first-degree manslaughter in exchange for a sentence of 22 years in state prison. He was sentenced Monday.

Oindo pleaded guilty in the shooting death of the 27-year-old Duane Todman at the corner of Craig and Stanley streets in the Hamilton Hill neighborhood. Oindo faced multiple charges prior to reaching a plea deal, including second-degree murder. 

Prosecutors said Oindo had no motive for the May 23, 2020 killing of Todman, a local artist who had just received a full scholarship to attend the Academy of Realist Art in Boston at the time of his killing. 

After Oindo’s plea, prosecutors said the case’s result came after the chief witness described the incident as a “pistol whipping” that resulted in Todman’s death. If credited by a jury, the account would have lacked the intent needed for a conviction on a more serious charge of murder, prosecutors said.

The plea to manslaughter meant Oindo admitted to intending to cause serious physical injury to Todman, causing his death.

Those close to Todman remembered him as a spiritual individual in the days after his death with an incredible talent. 

Assistant District Attorney Christina Termante-Pelham read Essence Todman’s statement into the record Monday. The prosecutor said Essence Todman’s words spoke to the impact that gun violence has on families. 

Danielle Neroni, an attorney representing Oindo, said her client has been remorseful in the months since the incident and had plans to address Hightower directly at Monday’s hearing.  

She noted that Oindo’s family is also suffering because of his actions.

“This is forever a mistake that is going to change the lives of many,” Neroni said.

The Hon. Mark J. Caruso, meanwhile, said Oindo’s actions have had an impact on both families, but acknowledged one key difference when handing down his sentence.   

“One of the big differences I see there, of course, is that your family can reach out to you,” the judge said. “They can come visit you in the department of corrections. They can write you letters and they can write you back, but obviously the family of Mr. Todman will not have that same benefit.” 

Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.

Categories: -News-, Schenectady, Schenectady County

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