ALBANY — Family members of two women slain by Edward Mero gave emotional statements in court Tuesday, each asking the judge to sentence Mero to the maximum possible prison term for his crimes.
Relatives of Schenectady resident Shelby Countermine and Albany resident Megan Cunningham recalled the years of grief caused by Mero's crimes.
"I urge you to honor Shelby Countermine's memory, to honor Megan Cunningham's memory, and ensure the monster never steals another life, never has a chance to do evil again," Deborah Zellan, Countermine's step-mother, told Judge Peter Lynch. Zellan spoke on behalf of herself and Countermine's father, Steven Countermine.
Lynch granted that request by sentencing Mero to 50 years to life in state prison for the murders.
Three family members gave statements at the sentencing: Countermine's mother and step-mother and Cunningham's mother.
Lynch sentenced Mero after Mero gave his own brief statement to the court, continuing to deny involvement in the crimes. An appeal is expected, his attorney Cheryl Coleman said.
"I'd like to apologize to the families, but I didn't do it, your honor," Mero told the judge.
A jury in December found Mero guilty of the murders, finding that he killed his roommate, Cunningham, in January 2013 before setting fire to their Albany residence to cover up the crime.
The jury also convicted Mero of killing Countermine, who disappeared in December 2014 and whose body was found six months later in Coeymans.
Mero was the last person known to be with Countermine before her disappearance in December 2014. Her body was found months later on remote land owned by the Albany Water Department -- Mero was a water department employee -- and a witness recalled seeing a man fitting Mero's description near the place where the body was found. The man
was wearing the same kind of stocking cap that Mero owned.
Coleman said after the sentencing that she expected Mero's appeal to focus on the two murder cases being tried together, which she argued shouldn't have occurred.
The three family members speaking in court each chose to remember the women lost as they were. Cunningham's mother Kelly Naylor remembered her daughter as "the most brilliant light in my life."
"I am not ordinarily a hateful person," Naylor told the court in a statement read by a representative. "I do get angry and eventually, most of the time just let it go. I cannot find any shred of mercy, compassion or forgiveness in my heart."
She then asked the judge for the justice her daughter deserved and to show now mercy on "the creature that killed my baby."
Countermine's mother Lori Dean told of the loss of her daughter, the girl who loved "Golden Girls" and put hot sauce on every meal. She also told of the six months spent not knowing what happened, and then learning her daughter had been left buried in an unmarked shallow grave by her killer.
The grieving, Dean said, is continuous. The family had Countermine cremated and they bought her home.
"I couldn't bury her again," Dean said, "so she will remain with me until my last breath."
Mero robbed her daughter of a future, of a chance to blossom into a valued member of society, to have a family of her own, Dean told the court.
But Countermine's legacy, Dean said, is with her family, not Mero.
"I hope this statement shows that it will be the people who loved her who get to determine her legacy and her memory," Dean said, "and Edward Mero is only a footnote, to be forgotten."