By Harry Parker and Larry McShane
New York Daily News
Apr 26, 2023, at 2:18 pm
A deranged Bronx defendant was sentenced Wednesday to life without parole for the murder of beloved city EMT Yadira Arroyo in a heartbreaking hearing where her family and partner confronted the killer after a six-year wait.
Jose Gonzalez, 31, wearing handcuffs inscribed with his victim’s name, received the maximum sentence seven weeks after his first-degree murder conviction for the gruesome on-the-job death of Arroyo, a 14-year EMT veteran and the mother of five sons.
The courtroom, as it was during the trial, was packed with the victim’s family and colleagues as their long wait for justice finally arrived.
Arroyo “looked into the eyes of evil before she died,” her mother Leida Rosado said in court before the sentence was imposed. “At night, before I close my eyes, Yadi is the last thought on my mind. Taken from me in the most savage way … You went primal. You killed Yadi!”
The suspect’s handcuffs for the hearing bore the victim’s name: “In memory of FDNY EMT Y. Arroyo,” with the EMT union posting a photo of the restraints on social media.
The victim’s FDNY partner Monique Williams, in a statement read by an attorney, recounted the lasting and horrific impact of watching Arroyo die beneath the wheels of their ambulance — with the 2,232 days since the drug-addled Gonzalez was arrested at the scene doing nothing to ease her pain. “This nightmare plays out over and over in my head every day,” read her statement. “I carry the weight of this on my shoulders every day. To the defendant, it was you who did the crime. Yadi, you can finally rest in peace.”
The shocking March 16, 2017, killing left Arroyo’s co-workers devastated — particularly her partner, who watched helplessly as Gonzalez jumped inside their truck and twice ran Arroyo down.
The hearing was the final step in a tortured legal process stretching over six painful years, with the prosecution repeatedly delayed in a battle over the defendant’s mental health, dozens of hearings and conflicting court filings over his fitness for trial.
“It is simply impossible to overstate (the horrors) of this case,” said Bronx Supreme Court Justice Martin Marcus in imposing the sentence. “Given the nature of the crime, the devastating impact on her family, I sentence you to life in prison without parole.”
The long-awaited guilty verdict came in March, just eight days before the sixth anniversary of Arroyo’s gruesome death.
The career criminal had a rap sheet of 31 prior arrests when he crossed paths with Arroyo, who was working an overtime shift when brutally run down. The prosecution case finally began this past February, with Gonzalez convicted after a month-long trial and two days of deliberations.
“This is a moment many of us thought to be far out of reach for years,” said Oren Barzilay, the president of FDNY EMS Local 2507. “Now that a sentence has finally been issued, it’s a blessing to know that Yadira’s family and colleagues can be at peace. She was a light in the EMS family taken too soon. It is a relief to finally have justice.”
The defendant spoke briefly, with his attorney asking in vain for the minimum sentence of 20 years to life.
“I’m sorry for what I’ve done,” said Gonzalez. “I apologize to the victim’s family. I never knew what was going on. I’m really sorry. This is tragic to me. I never meant to hurt anyone. Please forgive me.”
“Yadira Arroyo was an extraordinary EMT who cared for her patients deeply — just as she was doing when she was brutally killed six years ago,” said FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh. “We are grateful her killer will never be on the streets again, with no eligibility for parole … We will continue to honor her memory of service to our city.”
The lethal encounter was set in motion after Gonzalez jumped on the back of their moving vehicle, with things escalating from there. Once arrested, the killer bizarrely began reciting the alphabet.