ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Richard Wilbern has been sentenced to life in prison.
Wilbern was convicted of a robbery at the Xerox Federal Credit Union in Webster back in 2003. During that robbery, 51-year-old Raymond Batzel of Lima was killed. Another man, Joseph Doud, was shot in the shoulder, but survived.
Wilbern was arrested and charged in 2016 in connection to the robbery-homicide, 13 years after the crime had occurred.
Wilbern entered the Federal Building in Rochester to be sentenced Tuesday morning. There was a delay, since Wilbern claimed he wasn’t notified about the sentencing date until the day before. The conversation was taking place between Judge Charles Siragusa and Wilbern via telephone.
The judge said in court that the notices went out on September 8th that sentencing would be on the morning of September 22nd. At first, Wilbern seemed reluctant to come to the courtroom and after a back and forth, he agreed to come. Wilbern stated in court it didn’t give him enough time to prepare a statement nor have certain family members present, such as his son.
Before the family of Batzel could speak, discussion of restitution was made: $468,852.53 must be given to Shannon Batzel, one of the daughters, and $10,000 to the credit union, among other payments.
The impact statements started with Robert Nealon, who was there representing Xerox and was authorized by their board of directors to comment. He said in court that the victims of that horrific day have lived in fear and grief. Many who have spent hours in trauma counseling and have not had closure.
Carri Batzel-Akins, another daughter of Raymond, wept as she began to speak in court. She said the last words she spoke to her father was “goodnight and I love you. Talk to you tomorrow.” She tjhen said “tomorrow never came.”
She felt every milestone since that tragic day was stolen from her. The same sentiment echoed by her older sister, Shannon. She spoke from home via zoom. She said in court that her father would never see her kids grow up and share the laughter and joy they could have had. That their lives weren’t the only families impacted, but others who were at the credit union that day.
Rowena Bennett, Raymond’s mother, spoke last. Her comments were not bitter, but more of giving a different perspective of the lives the two men intertwined in this incident lived. She describes Raymond as a boy who was raised on a farm who grew up, married and went to college. Bennett said his son could have done so much more.
She also described the life Wilbern had, which was distinctly different and said both could have been beacons in their respective communities, but said Wilbern chose another path.
Wilbern did speak in court before his sentencing. He claimed he was wrongfully accused and wrongfully convicted. Criticizing the judicial system of prejudice. Wilbern said in court that “we live in two different Americas.” He recounted how his brother was stabbed to death in the 70’s by a Caucasian man.
Wilbern said in court there was “No FBI investigation, No media coverage.” He also wanted his family and especially his son to know to walk with their heads held high because he said he didn’t kill Raymond Batzel. Wilbern also quoted the late Ruth Bader Ginesbur, “I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”
Judge Siragusa countered the claims that his conviction was racially motivated. He also stated the criminal history he had and said in court he didn’t display as a person of a law abiding citizen. The judge called Wilbern, a “cold inhuman savage. You will die in prison and you should.”
Wilbern was sentenced to life in prison but Judge Siragusa also said if Wilbern were released, which said was doubtful, he would have to serve five years of supervision and have no possession of a firearm.
“After 17 years, and thanks to the tireless and relentless dedication of our federal, state, and local law enforcement professionals, a cold-blooded murderer has finally been held accountable and the family of his victim has finally received some measure of justice,” stated U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “Notwithstanding the current widespread effort to demonize our Nation’s law enforcers, both their shortcomings and the virtues are but a reflection of their humanity. Fortunately, their virtues routinely outweigh their shortcomings, and in this case, the compassion and commitment exhibited by our law enforcers helped to deliver our community’s best — and last — hope for justice.”
During a separate case, investigators were able to use Wilbern’s saliva from an envelope and match it with a genetic sample off of an umbrella left at the scene.
“And I believe it’s the correct decision, to hold Mr. Wilbern accountable after all these years, for the death of Raymond Batzel,” Doug Gregory, Attorney in Charge of the Rochester Office said previously.
Gregory said that science solved the case.
“The DNA evidence we obtained from Mr. Wilbern conclusively matched the DNA left on the umbrella back in 2003,” he said. “DNA sees through disguises.”
Gregory says this case involved multiple people across many law enforcement fronts.
Wilbern was previously scheduled to be sentenced on February 11.
Check back with News 8 WROC as we have a crew at the courthouse and will continue to update this developing story.