Victim mourned as killer gets 20 years to life in prison
ROME — The victim in a Rome homicide was memorialized in Oneida County Court Tuesday morning, while her killer — her daughter — was sent to state prison.
Paleigh M. Iannarilli, age 24, was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison for shooting and killing her mother — 43-year-old Theresa G. Nielsen — in Rome in February 2022.
"My world came to a crashing halt because you took my daughter away from me," said Bernice Merrill, mother to Nielsen and grandmother to Iannarilli. Merrill wrote a statement, which was read out loud in court by Oneida County Assistant District Attorney Paul Kelly.
"Terry was an amazing mother and daughter. She went above and beyond for her kids. She was always there for me and she took care of me because of my poor health. You selfishly took her away from everyone for no reason."
Authorities said that around noon on Feb. 7, 2022, Iannarilli was in an argument with her mother at Iannarilli’s residence on Milton Avenue in Rome when she used her father's hunting rifle to shoot and kill Nielsen. After she was taken into custody, Iannarilli was ruled mentally unfit to proceed in court and she underwent several months of mental health treatment.
She returned to court in late 2022 and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in January. Oneida County Court Judge Robert L. Bauer sentenced Iannarilli to the agreed upon sentence of 20 years to life in prison on Tuesday.
"I forgive you, yes, and I don't hate you, no, but what you did was so wrong. You hurt so many people taking her away from us," Merrill wrote in her statement.
"Did you even think of the consequences you would face for this horrible, senseless act of violence towards the woman who raised and supported you?"
Merrill added, "My daughter was an angel on Earth, and now she's an angel in Heaven."
When it was her turn to speak, Iannarilli told the court that "I killed my abuser. I don't deserve prison."
She did not elaborate.
When he imposed the sentence, Judge Bauer put on the record for any future parole boards to ask Iannarilli about her "diseased thoughts" before considering possible parole.
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