Closure for stabbing survivor - to an extent

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As Alyssa Garcia continues her long and difficult recovery process after being randomly, brutally attacked with a knife while working at the Rite Aid on Warwick Avenue in March, the man who attacked her has been officially sentenced by the Rhode Island courts.

In an hour-long court session at Kent County Superior Court on Friday, Oct. 20, Magistrate John McBurney handed down a maximum 45-year sentence, with 25 to serve, to the man who carried out a random, vicious stabbing attack on Garcia at her place of work.

Alyssa Garcia was in attendance, along with family and friends, not only to watch her attacker get sentenced but also to speak about the punishment for the “man of her nightmares” alongside her sister, Tara Zorabedian.

“I recall wondering if my parents would have to bury their first child,” Garcia said, remembering the attack. “There was a pool of blood around me…I stared down at my intestines that were hanging out of my body.”

The horrific attack was carried out by Jacob Gallant, 42, who purchased a butcher’s knife on a Sunday in March and walked into Rite Aid with the intent to kill the first person he saw. The incident has caused a lifelong toll on Garcia, according to her sister.

“It’s heartbreaking to watch an 18-year-old girl struggle with daily activities like tying a ponytail,” Zorabedian said. “My sister can’t use her left hand right now because of the surgeries.”

Garcia also talked about the struggles she goes through still because of this attack, saying that “my life is now at a standstill…my anxiety and PTSD has me afraid of going out…the supposed best years of my life are now spent in agony.”

“I’ve lost every normal aspect of my life,” she said.

Garcia ended her speech with a plea to the judge: “Please allow me the peace of knowing the man of my nightmares is behind bars.”

The problem with her request: Rhode Island laws.

In Rhode Island, there is no law specific to attempted murder. There is “assault with intent to commit murder,” but that doesn’t warrant the lifelong sentence that other states have for attempted murder. McBurney could only sentence Gallant a maximum of 45 years, with 25 to serve, on counts of assault with intent to commit murder, mayhem and possessing a butcher’s knife to commit a crime.

Garcia’s representation, Special Assistant Attorney General Charles Calenda, called it a “life-altering” attack and made a passionate case for criminal justice reform in Rhode Island, saying that a man like Gallant should never see the outside of the ACI again, but likely will be allowed to walk free because of state laws.

Citing the “nature, lifelong impact, and message sent by the courts” from this attack and sentencing, Calenda couldn’t change the sentencing but did send a clear message to the courts about what he views as problems with state laws.

During the sentencing, Gallant spoke briefly, apologizing to Garcia and her family for the “troubles he has served.” He didn’t, however, offer any explanation for why he bought the knife, walked into Rite Aid and attacked a defenseless 18-year-old with the intent to kill, only to be stopped by bystanders Connor Devine and Stanley Bastien.

Garcia said she knows she would have died if not for the quick actions of Devine and Bastien, as well as first responders, but comes away from the ordeal knowing that the man who came seconds away from stabbing her to death – leaving her with lifelong scars and nerve damage – may walk free someday.

Because of the attack, the Pilgrim graduate said she was unable to take part in the end-of-senior-year festivities that every high school student looks forward to, but she was able to walk the stage with her class this past June.

Now, Garcia is figuring out what she wants to do in life while dealing with everyday hardships caused by this attack, while the man responsible starts a prison sentence that could one day allow him to walk free once again.

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