A Delaware County man pleaded no contest today to the murders of a former lieutenant in the South Vietnamese Army, and a great-grandmother.
Jermaine Burgess, a repeat violent offender from Upper Darby, received a total sentence of life without parole plus a minimum of 25 years in the 2008 deaths of Hoa Pham in Upper Darby and Marie Ott in Ridley Township. Burgess, who was facing the death penalty, showed little emotion during the two-hour proceeding.
On Oct. 27, Ott, 81, a handicapped widow, was tied up, stabbed and suffocated with a plastic bag over her head, according to police.
On Nov. 10, Pham and his wife were asleep when Burgess broke into the home, tied them up, beat the 60-year-old man on the head with a hammer and chisel, and then raped his wife before killing Pham. His wife escaped and ran to neighbors.
Members of both victims' families were in court.
Joe Elia, 56, of Wallingford, Ott's son, said that every day his thoughts return to "that awful day."
Daniel J. McDevitt, deputy district attorney, read a victim impact statement from Pham's wife. The letter said she "didn't have the courage" to see the defendant in court, she lives with nightmares, and she has considered suicide.
"You killed my husband, tortured him until he died; that means you have killed my life," the letter said.
Burgess, 37, has spent most of the last 18 years in prison, and has a history of drug and alcohol abuse. He was out on parole for less than five months when he committed the murder of Ott.
His attorney, Francis L. Zarrilli, said that as part of his parole plan, Burgess was required to have a drug and alcohol evaluation. It did not take place because Burgess was denied Medicaid, which the agency he was referred to required. No further assistance was provided by the state parole system.