In responding to the family's pleas, Superior Court Judge Mark Sandson said: "I'm going to do justice today." He sentenced Pelzer to 80 years in prison - two consecutive 40-year terms for each murder. She must serve 68 years before she is eligible for parole.
Pelzer, who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at age 24, was not on her medication at the time of the killings. She was homeless, panhandling, and hearing "voices often telling her to do things, such as kill herself," Sandson said, reading from a psychiatrist's evaluation.
In the courtroom, Pelzer, of West Hunting Park, spoke softly when she apologized to the victims' family.
"I was real sick back then," she said.
Prosecutors noted Pelzer was legally sane at the time of the killing, and understood what she was doing was wrong.
That day, she tucked a pair of scissors in her purse, nail clippers in her sock, and carried the knife, said Assistant Prosecutor Seth Levy.
The Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office had sought a life term, the maximum for a murder conviction, for each killing, to deter random, violent crime in the resort town.
"It's not just justice for this defendant. . . . It's justice for the people of Atlantic City, the people of Atlantic County, for anyone in the state of New Jersey . . ." Levy said.
"They need to know that someone's not going to run up to them and brutally murder them because they want their money."
Sandson agreed, saying the message for residents and visitors is that "one does not become a target simply because you are walking the streets of Atlantic City."
Alice Leung and her mother had traveled to Paris, Beijing, and many other foreign cities. They kept scrapbooks, which prosecutors gave to Sandson.
The women had driven from Scarborough to Atlantic City, one their favorite haunts.
"For the past year, our family has been living with the unbearable loss of Mother and Alice," Ophelia Leung told the court. "We were such a happy family. Now this family is gone, no more happiness."
Alice Leung was thrown to the ground and repeatedly stabbed in her torso as Pelzer tried to wrestle her pocketbook away outside Bally's Atlantic City casino hotel, at the intersection of Pacific and Michigan Avenues.
Wan was stabbed in the lower body, hand, and shoulder trying to protect her daughter.
Her mother "was trying to protect Alice until the last minute," Ophelia Leung said.
She added: "The most cruel thing is that she has to witness Alice being stabbed, and lying dead there in pools of blood but could not save her life."
An Atlantic City police officer on routine patrol saw the attack, and within seconds, the officer drew his weapon and ordered Pelzer to drop the knife and get on the ground. The attack itself lasted less than 40 seconds, surveillance video showed.
Alice Leung was an accounting manager at a Toronto mining company and a member of the Toronto Chinese Orchestra and played the yangqin, a hammered dulcimer.
Pelzer, who attended West Philadelphia High School, is a mother of three and grandmother of eight, her mother, Gladys, said.
She too apologized for the killing and pleaded for her daughter to get medical attention she needed. The mental-health system, not Pelzer's family, failed Pelzer, her mother said.
The prosecutor's office released a statement Thursday evening from Leung's family saying: "Today is the last day we have to face the public trial of the tragic loss of our two closest and dearest family members."