Washington Heights, NY – A 6-foot-6 career mugger who bludgeoned an 81-year-old Orthodox Jew to death while robbing him in his Washington Heights elevator was slammed today with a maximum sentence of 25 years to life for the brutal murder.
Victim Jacob Gerstle had been coming home from his synagogue in 2006 when William Hill, 28, punched him in the head so hard, Gerstle lapsed into a coma and died two days later,(as was reported here on VIN News).
“Had Mr. Hill just gone into the elevator and said ‘I’m down on my luck,’ he probably would have invited him up to the apartment and given him something to eat,” Gerstle’s son, Leon, told Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Bruce Allen during the crowded sentencing.
Gerstle ran a food pantry and helped neighbors find funds, schools and jobs. His last words may well have been to his murderer, to whom he said, “Hi, how are you?” according to Hill’s own admissions.
“I’ve tried dozens of murder cases in my career,” the judge said in throwing the book at the hulking murderer. “This is one of the most brutal crimes I’ve had to face.
“To attack a frail, elderly man in an elevator is every citizen’s nightmare.”
Hill was linked to the heinous crime by his confessions to a friend and cops, as well as surveillance video from his Bennett Avenue lobby showing someone of the Hill’s size, age and race following Gerstle into the elevator.
Still, the veteran robber denied it was him, claiming his confession was coerced by threatening cops. “It’s as if he was in a hotel getting room service,” defense lawyer Daniel Gotlin had scoffed of prosecutors” insistence that Hill was fed and well cared for in custody.
Hill’s 2008 trial on the same murder case ended in a hung jury.
WCBS report from 2006