As many of you know, for the past year and a half I have been blogging about the trial of Bulos “Paul” Zumot. He had been charged with killing his girlfriend Jennifer Schipsi and setting their house on fire to cover the murder. Eight months ago, Zumot was found guilty of murder in the first degree and arson. For the family, it has been two long years since the murder of their sister, aunt, daughter, and friend. This past Friday, October 28th, I attended his sentencing, which local media called “a bizarre courtroom scene.” At least one leg of this long journey to healing has been completed. After at least seven postponements, Zumot was sentenced to serve a minimum of 33 years in prison. Most believe he will never see the outside of the walls of prison again. Justice was served.
Unfortunately, Zumot gave us one last demonstration of his narcissistic, self-serving behavior. He acted out – strategically. He started with one tactic, terminating the services of his attorney (probably should have thought of that before the verdict). That strategy did not prevail, so he went on to plead with the judge to delay sentencing and that did not work. Finally, he began ranting that the blame for this predicament landed on the judge and assistant district attorney, not himself. The world was against him because he was an immigrant. He wanted us to believe this was a conspiracy and that he was framed. He became louder and louder with each unsuccessful claim. Watching him go from one tactic to another, testing each for effect, reminded me of many other women’s descriptions of their partner’s behavior. I once worked with a woman whose battering partner left roses for her at our shelter door. She did not respond, so he next sent her a Polaroid picture of a gravestone in a cemetery. He wrote her name in pen over the gravestone. If one strategy doesn’t work, apply another, violence being the ultimate.
Although his ranting did not work, it was incredibly painful for the family and friends of Jennifer to hear. My heart wrenched watching Jennifer’s daughter andJim Schipsi, Jennifer’s father, attempt to give their victim impact statements, having to yell over Zumot’s rant. I desperately wanted to tape Zumot’s mouth and force him to face Jim and the family while they gave their statements. Zumot’s ugliness and poison filled the room at a time the family should have been able to finally give their statements. After all, they patiently sat in the courtroom day after day during the trial. They listened to the most gruesome aspects of the case. They saw pictures of their beloved relative’s murdered body. Those pictures will be etched into their memories forever. Yet they sat in the courtroom with dignity and grace. They deserved their day. Zumot wanted to steal that as well, but he didn’t win. He didn’t get away with murder and he was forced to listen to the heartbreaking testimony albeit in another room.
Zumot robbed Jennifer’s family and friends of her lightness, her presence, her beauty and love. As Jennifer’s aunt noted in her testimony, he robbed them of Jennifer’s future and he ruined their memories of her past. No amount of prison time will bring those things back but yesterday justice was served.