Life sentence for a ‘predator’

Posted: August 09, 2010

A North Philadelphia man convicted of the robberies of nine elderly people - most women who were also seriously beaten - was sentenced Monday to a total of 63 to 126 years in prison by a Philadelphia judge who called him "the very essence of a predator."

Christopher Russell, 35, seemed shocked at the sentence imposed by Common Pleas Court Judge Susan I. Schulman for a series of crimes from September of 2008 to March of 2009.

According to Assistant District Attorney Caroline Keating, Russell sought out elderly women who he robbed after they were going home from grocery shopping. The attacks were notable because he did not stop at purse-snatching but went on to pummel his victims.

One victim had all of her teeth punched out, Keating said.

"You were not satisfied with just snatching purses," Schulman told Russell before imposing the nine consecutive sentences for assault, robbery and, in some cases, burglary.

"Not being satisfied with that, you then had to punch them, beat them, knock them down and break out their teeth. That's the very essence of a predator," Schulman said.

Russell, who maintained that he was wrongly charged and convicted of some crimes because he is a black male, told defense attorney Thomas W. Moore III in court that he wanted to appeal.

Two of Russell's victims, Emily Campbell, 84, and Joan Gaffner, gave victim impact testimony about their ordeals.

In sentencing Russell, Schulman marvelled at his criminal career: 30 arrests since he was 13, 13 convictions, five prison terms.

"It just seems to me, Mr. Russell that you want to be here," the judge said. "This is an impressive showing on your part."

"In essence, in your case Mr. Russell, this is a life sentence," Schulman added. "The Court is fully aware of that and I believe . . . it is justified."

Contact Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985 or

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