Legends. That’s how the families of Andrew Laudano and Ricky Miner wanted everyone in a Palm Beach County courtroom Friday to remember them.
In the moments before Circuit Judge Laura Johnson sentenced the men’s 14-year-old killer to 60 years in prison for gunning them down in a 2015 west Boynton robbery, it was important for their families — especially Laudano’s brothers — to show Anthony Clark that not even his bullets could could break the love and admiration they had for the 21 and 23-year-old larger-than-life personalities who considered each other more family than best friends.
“This was their world, you’re just living in it,” Christian Laudano, Laudano’s younger brother, told Clark, now 17.
“Let him know,” said James Bell, another of Laudano’s brothers.
Clark stared ahead expressionless through most of the commentary, even as the brothers’ grief manifested through dark wishes for what will happen to Clark when he gets to prison, or even worse, when he gets out.
It was Laudano’s money, according to Assistant State Attorney Andrew Slater’s in-court narrative of the case to Johnson Friday, that sparked Clark’s plan to rob and kill Laudano two years ago. The plan, which Slater said Clark hatched with an unnamed accomplice who hasn’t been indicted, was to set up Laudano to meet, then rob and kill both him and whoever happened to be with him at the time.
Clark told investigators that he and the unnamed accomplice used to buy marijuana from Laudano and targeted him because he saw he carried large sums of cash. Slater said Clark bought the murder weapon at school days before the killing, and Reed Albertson, who will be sentenced Wednesday, joined the plot days before it ultimately came to fruition on April 7, 2015 in the 900 Block of Talway Circle in the Melrose Place community west of Boynton Beach.
There, Slater said Clark told him, Albertson and the unnamed accomplice acted as lookouts while Clark shot both Laudano and Minor in the head as they sat in a Dodge Charger, then fired another bullet in Laudano’s head at the encouragement of the unnamed accomplice.
Investigators at the time of Clark’s arrest said the robbery got him $5,000, which they spent partially on a video game system and expensive sneakers he bought on a shopping spree at a mall with friends after he bragged about the killing.
As part of the 60-year plea deal, Clark will serve a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison, but will be eligible for release after a review of his case then based on new state laws regarding sentencing for juvenile offenders.
Friday’s sentencing brought tears from the mother of Laudano’s 4-year-old son, who remembered the young father teaching his son how to walk only to have his life taken before he could be there for much more.
For Minor’s mother, Mary Lynn Rogan, the memories were of her son’s loving, protective nature. She told Johnson about how she’d gotten a call from her son’s middle school principal shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. A group of bullies had beaten up three Pakistani girls in a school bathroom, and when Minor found out, his mother said the principal explained, he responded by personally walking each of the girls to their classes from that day on so that no one would hurt them.
In elementary school, he made a card out of construction paper as a school project for Mother’s Day and explained that he loved his mother because she treated him nice, was always there for him and always fed him — in that order.
“Is your mom special as mine?” Minor wrote in the short essay that Logan read aloud Friday, later adding: “Whenever I get hurt she always makes it better. She always keeps me safe. Don’t you wish you had a mom like mine?”
For Minor’s niece, Lexi “Lexx” Neal, every day brings with it memories of the love and life advice her uncle gave her. Chief among his pearls of wisdom: Keep going.
“He would always say that,” she said. “No matter what happens, whatever you go through, keep going.”
The words have been hard for her to remember at times, and she told Johnson in court Friday that her uncle’s death launched her into a deep depression that separated her from her family and friends, led her to stop wanting to go to school and inflicted emotional pain she still suffers from today.
There was no one in the courtroom for Clark, except for his defense attorney, Kai Li Fouts, who from the start of the case had tried her best to remind everyone both in and out of court that her client, after all, was and is a child.
Minor’s older sister, Kelly Neal, urged Johnson to “take no pity on this man.” And even after Laudano’s brothers’ words led deputies to ask them to leave the courtroom, they stood outside waiting for the sentencing hearing to end and said they weren’t sorry for anything they said.
Their sympathy, they said, had been lost at the sight of the pair of tears Clark had tattooed under his eye after the killings, a symbol made popular in prison culture to signify the number of people a gang member or prisoner has killed.
Christian Laudano said he believed that Clark killed his brother and Minor while playing the role of “gangster.” But the younger brother said he had personally watched Clark’s confession video and said he was “crying like a girl” and also had violated the so-called gangster code to which he ascribed by “snitching” to police about the plot in order to broker the deal.
“My brother, I couldn’t even give you words that could tell you how big a person he was,” Christian Laudano said. “He lived more life in 23 years than most people live in a whole lifetime.”