DAWN AND PAUL Sweeney waited with bated breath yesterday as the judge prepared to resentence the now adult man who orchestrated the savage murder of their son, Jason, 12 years ago.
From the start of the two-day hearing on the matter, they made clear that they wanted the original sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole to stand for Jason's killer, Nicholas Coia.
And they got their wish.
Common Please Judge Sandy L.V. Byrd yesterday resentenced Coia, 28, to life in prison without the possibility of parole - upholding the original 2005 sentence of Common Pleas Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes - to the relief of the Sweeney family.
"This is an uncommon case, there are no factors which remove the defendant from the punishment of life in prison without parole," Byrd said. "Not only did he plan the assault, but he participated in the assault which was so violent that Jason Sweeney had to be identified with dental records."
After the sentencing Dawn Sweeney, Jason's mother, said she was content with the outcome.
"I am relieved that he never has to be exposed to another person again," she said of Coia. "No one should ever have to be exposed to him."
Coia, then 16; his brother, Domenic; and their friend Edward Batzig Jr., beat Jason to death in 2003 after using 15-year-old Justina Morley to lure him to a remote area under the guise of having sex with her by the Delaware River.
The three boys, all under 18 at the time of the murder, were sentenced to life in prison without parole. However, in 2012 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the life sentences given to juveniles were a violation of the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, and required that juveniles sentenced to life be resentenced.
During the hearing, Coia's attorney, James Lammendola, argued that Coia's unstable family life led him to the crime in which he said Coia's involvement was limited to hitting Jason with a rock.
However, in a scathing 2005 letter to Morley who pleaded guilty for her role in the slaying and was sentenced to 17 1/2 to 35 years in prison, Coia wrote how his friends "fell into place" in the plot which he set up to murder and rob their friend Jason.
Assistant District Attorney Jude Conroy told the court that Coia had created multiple plans to kill Jason and that his persistence didn't stop until Jason was viciously hacked and bludgeoned to death.
"The savagery that was put upon Jason was unspeakable and inhumane, it is 'Lord of the Flies'-esque," he said.
"Justice was served today. The defendant was sentenced to spending the rest of his days in prison and he will die in prison."