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Suspect in Witness Death Gets Jail

December 10, 1999

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) _ A man accused in the slaying of an 8-year-old boy and his mother was sentenced to 105 years in prison today for a murder in which the boy was expected to be a key prosecution witness.

Superior Court Judge G. Sarsfield Ford said he found no redeeming qualities in Russell Peeler Jr. to spare him the maximum sentence.

``He doesn’t deserve any consideration,″ Ford said. ``He cannot be expected to be rehabilitated and be put back on the street and stay away from the criminal element. ... I’d be a fool to expect that.″

Peeler, 27, was convicted in September of murdering Rudolph Snead Jr. in May 1998.

He also was found guilty of attempted murder and two counts of risk of injury to a minor stemming from a drive-by shooting eight months earlier, in which Snead was wounded.

In the car were Snead’s young son and Leroy ``B.J.″ Brown Jr.. who was expected to be a witness against Peeler. But he and his mother, Karen Clarke _ Snead’s fiancee _ were gunned down in their Bridgeport home Jan. 7.

Prosecutors say Peeler and his brother, Adrian Peeler, killed the two to keep the boy from testifying. If convicted in those slayings, the brothers could receive the death penalty.

Outrage over the slayings of B.J. and his mother led to an overhaul of the state’s witness protection laws, including requiring the chief state’s attorney to safeguard witnesses and allowing the state to take custody of child witnesses if parents have failed to protect them.

Authorities said Clarke had turned down special police protection after a few days, saying it was too disruptive.

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