BettyJean Downing- Kling
ON behalf of my daughters and their sons – I ask interested persons send letters to the Judge thanking her for her sentencing in the following case. Judge DeAvila-Silebi handed down a most fair sentence citing Domestic Violence statistics as her major consideration in making her final decision along with the testimony and guilty pleas of the defendant. It is apparent, this jurist sentenced George Hartwig to the full extent of the law within the bounds of the law, and she is to be commended for her careful, honest and thoughtful consideration of domestic violence and taking brutal offenders off the streets and refusing to fall for the defendants and his attorney’s arguments of mitigating circumstances. This Judge knows her business and we certainly need more of her on the bench all across this nation!
The Honorable Liliana S. DeAvila-Silebi
Bergen County Justice Court
10 Main Street Hackensack,
New Jersey 07601
Lodi man gets 30 years for shooting sister-in-law in the face
March 23, 2012 Last updated: Friday March 23, 2012, 6:13 PM
BY KIBRET MARKOS- STAFF WRITER -The Record
A Lodi man’s lengthy history of domestic violence culminated in a 30-year prison term on Friday after he was sentenced for shooting his sister-in-law in the face with a shotgun, leaving her severely brain-damaged and wheelchair-bound for life.
George Hartwig pleads guilty in 2011.
“I sincerely apologize for my actions,” George Hartwig said in Superior Court in Hackensack.
Hartwig at one point glanced at Louisa Rodas, who was brought into the courtroom in a wheelchair. Unable to speak or walk, she seemed to react at times with what sounded like sobs during the emotionally charged hearing.
Hartwig shook his head and looked away.
“She was very sisterly toward me,” he said. “She was genuine and unbiased toward me.”
Hartwig admitted in court in November that he shot Rodas because he mistook her for his mother-in-law.
Ten days before Christmas of 2008, Hartwig went to a Lodi home where his wife, Denise Richardson, lived with family members, he said. There, he got into an argument with his mother-in-law, Betty Jean Kling, he said. Hartwig said in one letter that Kling was “vicious and nasty” to him, and that her words “ate me up all day.”
He went back to his home, where he began drinking and taking prescription medication, he said. He then went back to his wife’s home with a loaded shotgun, where he shot Rodas, he said.
When Rodas’ brother and son, Thomas and Mark Richardson, arrived at the home to help, Hartwig aimed the gun at the brother and pulled the trigger, but the gun jammed, he said. The Richardsons then subdued him.
Kling offered more details of the incident as she spoke in court on Friday. She said Hartwig came to their home that day and said he wanted the receipt for a mattress he had bought.
Hartwig’s wife was sick with cancer at the time, but that did not stop him from dragging her around the house, demanding the receipt, she said.
The mother then intervened and threw Hartwig out of the house, she said.
Thomas Kearney, an assistant Bergen County prosecutor, said that six months before the shooting, Hartwig beat his ailing wife with a hammer and “split her head open.”
“She [Kling] had every right to be vicious and nasty when he returned to their house,” Kearney said.
Kling said Hartwig was cruel to his wife of 23 years, and often beat her as he demanded the painkillers she was taking for her cancer.
“But for reasons a mother cannot understand, she kept going back to him,” Kling said.
Denise Richardson died of ovarian cancer in March 2009, Kling said.
Kling was also quick to notice that Hartwig’s apology was limited to Rodas, and that he showed no remorse towards Kling.
“He would have killed me, and he wouldn’t be sorry about that,” Kling said.
Kling tearfully described how Rodas is now at the Bergen Regional Medical Center, where she needs 24-hour care.
“For all intents and purposes, her life has been taken from her,” she said.
MARKO GEORGIEV/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHERVictim Louisa Rodas gets comforted by her mother Betty Jean Kling at Hackensack Court. George Hartwig admitted in court in November that he shot Louisa Rodas in a drunken rage, having mistaken her for his mother-in-law, with whom he had fought earlier. Hartwig was given the maximum sentence on all counts.
Kearney added the shotgun blast blew off half of Rodas’ face, severely damaging the right side of her brain. She lost her right eye, and needs feeding tubes to eat, he said.
Defense attorney Brian Neary asked for a lesser sentence, saying that Hartwig was under the influence at the time of the shooting. He also said that Hartwig was himself a victim of domestic violence because he grew up with an abusive father.
Judge Liliana DeAvila-Silebi was not moved.
“Let’s call it for what it is: You killed her,” she said to Hartwig.
Hartwig, 43, was sentenced to a 20-year term for the attempted murder of Rodas, and a consecutive 10-year term for the attempted murder of Rodas’ brother, Thomas Richardson. He must serve nearly 26 years before he can be considered for parole.
DeAvila-Silebi also imposed a $100,000 fine and said she will hold a hearing on whether Hartwig, who may have received a settlement from a worker’s compensation claim, can make the payment.
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