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Monday, June 17
The Indiana Daily Student

crime & courts

Pizza X shooter sentenced to 73 years

Judge Marc Kellams isn’t used to hearing the message he got from the family of a slain Pizza X driver Wednesday.

“Most of the time when I sit through these, what I hear from the families is hatred,” Kellams said. “We didn’t hear that today.”

Instead, the family of Adam Sarnecki, 22, offered heartfelt concern for the future of the man who killed their brother, son, fiancee.

“I hope you were listening,” Kellams said. “You can still do good.”

But the nature of the crime and 24-year-old James Finney’s prior criminal history led Kellams to issue the maximum sentence: 65 years for murder and eight years for each of the two charges of carrying a concealed handgun.

He’ll serve the two eight-year sentences concurrently, the judge ruled, bringing the total sentence to 73 years.

“If released, you may well prey against other citizens,” Kellams said. “I think you’re dangerous, James.”

* * *

A jury found Finney guilty of murder and the two other charges last month. Finney told the judge Wednesday he plans to appeal the conviction.

The jury found that shortly after midnight on Nov. 4, 2011, Sarnecki drove up to the Pizza X south location after delivering a pizza to find Finney trying to break into cars in the dark parking lot.

Finney fled. Sarnecki followed.

In a grainy security camera video, jurors saw the two run off screen. They saw Sarnecki run back to the Pizza X building seconds later.

They heard testimony from a co-worker of Sarnecki who called 911 when the 22-year-old came in dripping with blood.

Sarnecki was sped to the hospital and later died in the operating room.

In the days that followed, an undercover Bloomington Police Department investigation attempted to purchase the gun used in the murder from Finney.

“I can’t let you walk with that gun because there’s a body on it,” Finney told a police informant.

Three days after Sarnecki was killed, Finney was arrested and charged with murder.

“I got scared, and I’m not trying to go to jail, man,” he said in a police interrogation. “The right thing and the best thing ain’t the same, you know?”

Defense attorneys suggested that Finney acted out of “sudden heat,” that he was afraid of Sarnecki — who was chasing him when Finney turned with the gun — and that he should only receive a lesser charge of manslaughter.

But Sarnecki was shot in the back, prosecutors argued. On his way to the hospital, the dying man had told police “the gun jammed,” suggesting that Finney tried to fire
additional shots.

The jury agreed, convicting Finney of all three charges.

* * *

Sherry Gill would have been Sarnecki’s mother-in-law. Her grandson, Gabriel, is Sarnecki’s son. Gabe was 3-months-old when Sarnecki was shot, but can recognize the tattoo of his father’s face on the back of his mother, Tiffany Josh.

Gill remembers holidays with the young family — Josh, Sarnecki, little Gabe and Josh’s two other children. Sarnecki lived for those children, Gill said during the sentencing hearing Wednesday. Sarnecki would always make sure the children were taken care of and presents were bought for them, Gill said.

“That Christmas tree was always full,” she said. “Because he’d make sure he’d do overtime for them.”

Josh, who ran out of the courtroom sobbing when the verdict was read, had trouble starting her statement to the courtroom Wednesday.

The night he was killed, Sarnecki stopped by her house to tuck the kids into bed while he was out on a pizza run, she said. Four hours later, screaming ambulances and bright police lights carried Sarnecki to the hospital.

“I see the hurt in my baby’s eyes every day,” she said, facing Finney. “It’s not OK to be so selfish. I never realized how selfish a person can be before this.”

And yet through all that hate, Sarnecki’s family offered Finney forgiveness. They asked the judge to hand down the maximum sentence, but then asked Finney to find peace
through faith.

Sean Sarnecki, Adam’s brother, told Finney he also had a criminal past, that he had gotten out of prison the day Adam was shot. He said he found strength through the Bible and hoped Finney would do the same.

“I’ve been in this courtroom and every other courtroom in here. I’m no different than you,” Sean told Finney. “I’d like to be able to call you my brother one day — my brother in Christ.”

Even Ronald Sarnecki, Adam’s father, who sobbed when he talked about never seeing his son again, said he had forgiven Finney. He invited Finney to write to him in prison, asking his son’s killer to reach out and accept the forgiveness he was offering.

“I’d rather be there for you than hate you for the rest of my life,” he said. “I’d love to have a time with you and my son in heaven.”

* * *

During the trial, Finney did not testify in his own defense. In fact, the defense did not call a single witness to back up Finney’s story.

Wednesday, the judge did not hear anything from Finney either. Instead, his defense attorney said his young age, a prior diagnosis of mental disorders and the taped confession were reasons to give Finney a lighter sentence.

Yet, the aggravating factors outweighed the claims of the defense, Kellams said. As he handed down the sentence, Finney rubbed at a teardrop tattoo under his right eye. He never broke the stone-faced stare he had held throughout the trial.

“It all seems so wasteful of human life,” Kellams said. “Not just Adam’s life, but yours. It seems so pointless.”

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