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Benjamin Lopez sentenced to life in prison for brutal 2017 murder of 73-year-old Long Island grandmother

Benjamin Lopez sentenced to life in prison for 2017 murder
Benjamin Lopez sentenced to life in prison for 2017 murder 02:21

MINEOLA, N.Y. -- A Levittown man was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison without parole for the murder of a Long Island grandmother exactly five years ago.

As CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported, the convicted killer has claimed for years he is mentally ill, yet has refused treatment.

"It's the end of a terrible, terrible five years," said Thomas Dorsa, the son-in-law of victim Lariane Pizzichemi.

"Benjamin Lopez hacked a 73-year-old grandmother to death because he was mad at her grandson," Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly said.

Prosecutors said it was a ruthless crime. Pizzichemi, who was stricken with cancer and defenseless, got in the way of a killer settling a gripe with her grandson during a home invasion.

"There was some grudge he had against my son over money and marijuana, but don't kill people over that," said Elaina Depperman, the victim's daughter.

Back in 2017, CBS2 first reported Lopez was accused of breaking into the Levittown home with a machete and killing the beloved grandmother and attacking her grandson.

"My son is left permanently damaged. He can never use his left hand ever again," Depperman said.

Police said it all happened due to a petty dispute over marijuana deals.

"She was a wonderful person. It's mind-boggling to think that somebody can do this to another human being," Dorsa said.

It has taken five years from his arrest to sentencing because prosecutors say Lopez has played games, claiming he's mentally ill, but refusing to be examined.

"We have been through delays. We have been through unnecessary outbursts. Everything that could add to the torture we've already been going through," Dorsa said.

Lopez refused to enter the courtroom and was wheeled in a wheelchair. He then, in a rambling monologue, refused to consent to sentencing. His defense said he has battled psychosis his whole life and has refused medication.

"The court system with mental illness, it's just unfortunate because they don't really know how to handle those type of situations," attorney Kaylee Kreitenberg said.

"It was obvious from all the witnesses who were there he knew exactly what was going on. He knew that what he had done was wrong," Donnelly said.

"I really do feel bad for the people out there that are truly or have mental conditions and are insane, but clearly Ben did this with intent," Depperman added.

The judge informed Lopez his consent was not needed and sentenced him to life in prison with no chance parole. A letter to the judge from the victims' friends and family wishes his many years in prison be hell on earth.

A second man who was accused of taking part in the murder, D'Angelo Gill, pleaded guilty in 2019 and is serving 17 years to life.

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