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'Worst of the worst' sentenced in Schenectady fire death

'Worst of the worst' sentenced in Schenectady fire death

Victim's son: 'I don't get it. I'll never get it'
'Worst of the worst' sentenced in Schenectady fire death
Antonio Bargallo Sr. (center) at his sentencing Wednesday for the fire death of wife Elizabeth Gonzalez.
Photographer: Steven Cook

SCHENECTADY — Elizabeth Gonzalez's oldest son didn't know where to start Wednesday when asked to speak about the loss of his murdered mother.

The six months since his father, Antonio Bargallo Sr., killed Gonzalez by setting her on fire have been the worst six months of his life, Antonio Bargallo Jr. said in court Wednesday at the sentencing of his father.

"I lost my best friend, my guidance; my blood, sweat and tears is gone from a selfish, gruesome act," Bargallo Jr. told the judge. "Me and my brother are never going to be the same people ever again, ever."

Antonio Bargallo Sr., 69, pleaded guilty in July to one count of second-degree murder for killing Gonzalez on March 4. In exchange for his plea, Bargallo Sr. received a sentence Wednesday of 21 years to life in state prison.

Bargallo Sr. said he killed Gonzalez at their Elmer Avenue home by dousing her with gasoline and lighting her on fire. He then left the house and walked to the Schenectady Police Department to turn himself in, according to court documents.

Judge Matthew Sypniewski imposed the agreed-upon 21-years-to-life sentence Wednesday and included a message for the state corrections system: Don't consider Bargallo Sr.'s advanced age when classifying him in prison. He will be 90 years old before he is eligible for parole.

The judge noted that, while Bargallo Sr. expressed some remorse in a pre-sentence report, Sypniewski found that remorse to actually be "some sort of warped sense of self-pity — that he's sorry for himself."

But, for Gonzalez, "who suffered an almost incomprehensible" death, the judge found no genuine expression of remorse by Bargallo Sr.

"He should be classified [in prison] like anyone else convicted of murder in a case like this," Sypniewski said from the bench, "and treated as the worst of the worst."

Bargallo Sr. declined to speak at the proceedings, but his attorney, Steve Signore, noted that he couldn't offer any words that would take away the pain and anger of Gonzalez's family. 

"The only thing I can offer up is some solace to the family, knowing that indeed he was remorseful and remorseful all during the time that I represented him," Signore said.

As Signore spoke of remorse, a member of Gonzalez's family stood up and left the courtroom, saying, "Come on, man," as he left.

Authorities never learned what led up to the murder. Only Bargallo and Gonzalez were there at the time, and Gonzalez didn't have a chance to give any statement, prosecutors said. Signore later said Bargallo Sr. never detailed what happened prior to the attack, though Signore noted Bargallo had some mental health issues.

The son touched on the lack of reason in his statement to the court.

"I don't get it. I'll never get it," Bargallo Jr. said. "And I'll never get answers because I'll never know. Only he will, and we'll never know, and that's not fair. It's not."

"She was so good to everybody, the family, everybody," the son said.

Neighbors heard Gonzalez's cries for help on March 4 and came to her aid. Paramedics took her to Westchester Medical Center, where she died from her injuries. She suffered burns on more than 50 percent of her body.

Gonzalez has been remembered by those who knew her as a kind woman who loved children. He son recalled her Wednesday as someone who "loved everybody more than herself."

She was a longtime employee of the Schenectady City School District, most recently as a main office aide at Oneida Middle School. She had two grown sons and four stepdaughters.

Prosecutor Christina Tremante-Pelham told the court that, not only did Bargallo Sr. take Gonzalez's life, but he took it "in the most cruel and horrific way."

"This defendant must now receive a sentence that reflects really the sheer awfulness of his actions in this case," Tremante-Pelham said. "And we believe the sentence that we ask you to now impose of 21 years to life does just that."

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