Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
Robber stole 'happiness' Elderly victims' granddaughters sound off during sentencing hearing
BY BRETT HAMBRIGHT, Staff Writer
Sophath Mek did more than just break into the Negrons' home and rob them on an October night in 2006, according to testimony in Lancaster County Court Monday.
Mek tied up an elderly Lancaster city couple with oxygen tubing and then beat Aurelia Negron, breaking multiple bones. He threatened Aurelia's husband, Jose, with a large knife, according to testimony.
"What you did to them is horrible. It's insane," Madga Negron, the Negrons' granddaughter, told Mek at his sentencing hearing. "You took away their happiness."
Lancaster County Judge Dennis Reinaker ordered that Mek, 29, spend 8 to 16 years in state prison for the brutal break-in at 227 Dauphin St.
A prosecutor said a longer sentence would have been sought, but Aurelia, 82, isn't well enough to endure a trial. Her husband died a few months after the crime, according to testimony.
Because of that, prosecutors agreed to a plea agreement, First Assistant District Attorney Christopher Larsen told the judge.
Justice, for the Negron family, had been a long time coming.
"This has been a very long process for us. You can't start to imagine what we've been through," Negron said, standing just steps from Mek. "Trying to understand why you did what you did to two elderly people that are so innocent."
After the crime, Mek fled to Utah, according to testimony. When DNA evidence linked him to the robbery, Utah sheriffs arrested him and he was extradited to Lancaster in 2011.
Asked for comment Monday, Mek said nothing, just shaking his head.
Still, the Negrons' relatives said, they don't hate Mek for what he did.
"That's not our family's way," Negron said. "But we hope and pray you've learned from what you've done. And I hope you pay for what you've done."
Jose and Aurelia Negron were both 75 years old when Mek and three uncharged accomplices forced their way into their home on Oct. 6, 2006, according to testimony. The intruders bound the couple and ransacked the home, stealing items and cash.
Mek attacked Aurelia Negron, breaking her ribs and bones in her face, according to testimony.
Reinaker outlined the details of the crime for Mek and then asked if that was what happened.
Mek paused, before confirming that it was.
Noraima Rivera, another granddaughter of the Negrons, said the crime essentially killed her grandfather.
"You took all the happiness that man had," Rivera told Mek. "After you did what you did, that man stopped believing he could protect my grandmother from people like you."
Said Reinaker: "I think we all agree that certainly hastened his death. If nothing else, it certainly made his last months less enjoyable."
Defense attorney Christopher Lyden said his client, a Cambodian immigrant, will likely be deported once he's paroled.
"These are all deportable offenses," Lyden told the judge.
Larsen said Mek deserves more than the 8-to-16-year term.
"We'd like to see even more time," he said. "The strain for (Aurelia) would be too great to risk putting her through that."
Mek was offered the sentence in exchange for guilty pleas to five charges. The victims' family, Larsen said, agreed with the terms.