SCRANTON, Pa. -- A man convicted of murdering two children in Lackawanna County more than 30 years ago was back in court Wednesday to be resentenced for his crime.
After hearing testimony Wednesday morning, Judge Vito Geroulo sentenced Joseph Aulisio to two consecutive 30-year life sentences.
Aulisio was just 15 years old when he kidnapped and shot Christopher Ziemba, 4, and Cheryl Ziemba, 8, in Old Forge in 1981. Autopsy results indicated the children had been killed by two blasts from a 12-gauge shotgun, fired from close range.
Aulisio was convicted in 1982 and sentenced to life in prison.
Aulisio is now 53 and had the opportunity to be resentenced because of U.S. Supreme Court rulings that struck down automatic life sentences for juvenile killers.
"I think I'd be happier if he were sentenced to life without parole, but our Supreme Court thinks differently, but I do believe Judge Geroulo's sentence would provide that protection to the community," said Lackawanna County District Attorney Mark Powell.
The children were Aulisio's neighbors in Old Forge. For the first time, Aulisio publicly explained the killings, saying Cheryl's death was an accident, and he killed her little brother out of panic.
It was a story neither the judge nor the case's former prosecutor Ernie Preate believed.
"It was a lie, everything, he lied. He's just a liar all the way through here," said Preate.
Aulisio was only eligible for resentencing because of a Supreme Court ruling that says juvenile killers should not be given automatic life sentences.
Aulisio's defense attorney had hoped the 38 years Aulisio has already served would be enough.
"I saw him cry when he admitted it the first time. The Commonwealth had their expert witness do a report on him, and he broke down and cried. In my talks and interviews with him at jail, he's cried. He's remorseful. He's not a callous killer. He was a child, he was 15, he was in 9th grade, he was a kid," said Aulisio's attorney Joe DeAndrea.
Family members of Cheryl and Christopher Ziemba's were in court. They did not want to speak on camera but told the court about how the children's deaths affect their family to this day and that they believe Joseph Aulisio should never be free again.
The judge noted that he did not see any remorse from Aulisio during the sentencing hearing.
Aulisio will be eligible for parole in 22 years when he is 75 years old.