Breaking News
More () »

Tops victims’ families frustrated by Payton Gendron’s appearance in court

The victims’ families were taken aback by Gendron’s clean appearance at his hearing. Legal experts say it is a strategy.

Out of everything that unfolded Monday morning at Payton Gendron’s guilty plea, one thing stood out — the Tops’ shooter’s appearance, which left the families of the victims questioning the system and the motive behind it.

“That's how America treats young white men, right? said Zeneta Everhart, the mother of one of the three survivors. “We keep them that way. We show them in a way that doesn't make them look threatening, and it's disgusting.”

Victims’ families expected Gendron would be in handcuffs with shaggy hair and an orange jumpsuit.

Instead, the way witnesses described the now 19-year-old who pleaded guilty to all 25 state counts was just the opposite. There were no cameras in the courtroom. 

“You see him with a sixth-grade, middle-school haircut, clean shave, looking real scrawny and nervous,” said Mark Talley, the son of another victim.

“If that were my son, if that were Zaire, pictures of him would have been in a hoodie,” Everhart added. “That's how we project black men in this country, and we clean up our young white kids.”

Gendron’s appearance according to legal experts was a strategic move.

While he pleaded guilty — receiving the automatic sentence of life behind bars in the state court with no parole — he’s still facing a possible death sentence from the federal court.

“If you're a competent defense attorney, you're going to present your best foot forward,” criminal defense attorney Paul Cambria said. “So you're going to have your client appear presentable.”

But while some say it may have been a strategy, as Erie County Sheriff John Garcia said, the defendant’s appearance wasn’t unique.

“Every incarcerated individual has the decision to make if they want to use the barber services,” he said. “It was evident today, from his appearances from when I last saw him, that he decided to get a haircut before the court.”

The sheriff would go on to say that regardless of the way that Gendron was presented, it won’t change anyone’s mind.

“A haircut and a shave is not going to make up for killing 10 people, Garcia said. “It doesn't matter how he appeared today. I know and everybody else knows that he's a convicted murderer.”

According to the Associated Press, Gendron’s parents, in their first public statement, said the guilty plea ensures their son will be held accountable. Paul and Pamela Gendron said they “pray for healing for everyone affected.” They thanked law enforcement authorities who investigated the case, adding they will “continue to provide any assistance we can.”

“We remain shocked and shattered to learn that our son was responsible for the hideous attack at the Tops grocery store on May 14, 2022,” said the emailed statement, which was provided to The Associated Press by their attorney.

Gendron is scheduled to appear in court again in February and his federal case will also continue in the meantime.


Before You Leave, Check This Out