A Philadelphia man who was found guilty of carjacking a Russian immigrant in Frankford and then killing her five hours later in a Burlington County field was sentenced to life imprisonment plus 40 years Friday.
State Superior Court Judge Jeanne T. Covert said that Lenroy Laurance, 29, won't be eligible for parole until he has served at least 94 years for the Sept. 2, 2009, murder, carjacking, kidnapping, and robbery of Lyudmila Burshteyn.
The 57-year-old naturalized citizen was sitting in her parked, new Nissan Murano, when four men, including Laurance, approached her and ordered her to lie on the floor in the back of the vehicle.
Then, police said the men pistol-whipped her and drove her around New Jersey for six hours while the men smoked marijuana, and looked for guns and a place to kill her.
Laurance, whose face reflected defiance and incredulity during the emotional sentencing hearing, apologized to the victim's family but insisted he was innocent.
"They've made me out to be this bad guy, and there's nothing proved. . . . The state presented a case on hearsay," he said.
During the trial in Mount Holly last month, jurors heard a taped statement Laurance gave to police, saw threatening letters he wrote to his ex-girlfriend to "stop snitching," and heard the testimony of accomplice Kareem Harrison, 19. Harrison is awaiting sentencing, while the two others are pending trial.
Ruslan and Marina Burshteyn, the victim's children, said after the sentencing that they were pleased with the outcome.
"The likelihood of him ever being released from jail is zero," Ruslan said. "I won't say it's fair - there's no such thing - but the sentence is appropriate and permissible by law."
First Assistant Prosecutor Ray Milavsky said the one thing that the victim and Laurance shared is that both were "born on foreign soil." But they led starkly different lifestyles, he said.
Burshteyn, who was Jewish, fled the Soviet Union because of religious persecution and later became a successful businesswoman and a citizen. Laurance was an illegal immigrant from Jamaica and became a drug dealer and thief, Milavsky said.
Defense lawyer Michael E. Riley said "the tragedy of the family is hard to contemplate" but said that another tragedy is the "wasted lives of others" who committed the crime, including his client. "There are no winners in this," he said. "Everybody loses."