Moments before Henry Sanders was sentenced for a multi-day carjacking rampage in Montgomery County, three victims stood up to tell a judge about the terror they had experienced — from Sanders and earlier in their lives.
There was a 79-year-old retired lawyer, whose family fled the Nazis aboard a fishing boat. A 77-year-old also spoke — all 110 pounds of him, suffering from emphysema, softly recalling his days as a U.S. soldier near the Berlin Wall during the Cold War. And there was a 62-year-old retired insurance adjuster, Burt Murray, who told the judge that he was in the midst of chemotherapy when Sanders struck.
“I looked like I was 80 years old,” Murray said. “He apparently thought he saw an easy mark, which at the time I was. I could barely walk.”
Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Robert Greenberg sentenced Sanders, 51, to 60 years in prison — and noted the strength his victims have shown.
“What happened here is a testament to the human spirit,” he said.
The attacks in November 2011 were brazen — occurring in the middle of the day, in crowded shopping mall parking lots. Sanders, armed with a box-cutter knife, was able to force his way into the victims’ cars without others noticing, get out of the areas and rob them. He hit one man so hard that he fractured his nose and orbital bone. “I doubt I will ever be quite the person I was,” the victim, Gustav Goldberger, told the judge.
The 73-minute hearing included an emotional apology to the victims from Sanders and from his brother, a local minister. A friend also spoke about Sanders’s longtime addiction to crack cocaine.
“Henry has struggled down through the years with his personal demons,” she told Greenberg, saying the crimes were about getting money to buy crack. “It was a binge.”
The three crimes in Montgomery were part of a larger rampage over 10 days that included three robberies in Prince George’s County. Sanders has pleaded guilty to those crimes.
It began on Nov. 18, 2011, when Sanders, who was living in Landover at the time, approached a 79-year-old man in the Hyattsville area and asked for a ride to a nearby hospital to visit his sick mother. The driver obliged. Sanders got in, punched him and stole his wallet, according to prosecutors. Two days later, he again struck in Prince George’s County, this time asking a man for a ride to a Metro station and robbing him of his wallet.
On Nov. 23, Sanders moved on to Montgomery County. That afternoon, an older man pulled into the parking lot at the Giant Food store in Wheaton Plaza. Surveillance video shows Sanders outside the store, looking over the parking lot. He was scanning for vulnerable victims, Assistant State’s Attorney Marybeth Ayres said in court. He spotted one, forced his way into the man’s car, flashed his box-cutter knife, and demanded the man move to the passenger seat.
Sanders then drove to two ATMs, withdrew money from the man’s account, and drove to a gas station, where he bought a carton of cigarettes using the man’s credit card. He drove to a Metro station and fled on foot, leaving the victim in his car.
The man, who requested anonymity because of concerns about his privacy, spoke in court Friday. He recalled his service in the U.S. Army about 50 years ago and told Greenberg about making his way through Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin and coming within 20 feet of the East German police, known as the Volkspolizei or the VoPo. “I’d been as close to the enemy — the VoPos — as I am from you,” he said. “That was certainly a very scary situation for me. But I look back and it was nothing compared to what I had to endure that day before Thanksgiving.”
He told Greenberg that when he goes to the Giant, he avoids the parking area where he was attacked and scans bushes and trees for someone “lurking there to prey on anybody else.”
On Nov. 26, Sanders forced his way into a car driven by Murray, who was being treated for a tumor in his leg, outside the same Giant. Sanders brandished a box-cutter knife, forced Murray to the passenger seat and drove to ATMs. Sanders withdrew $300 from Murray’s account and eventually left the car and fled on foot.
The next day, Goldberger walked out of a Target store in Wheaton. Surveillance video shows Sanders following him and slipping into the car. He punched Goldberger and stabbed him in the leg. As Goldberger bled, Sanders drove around to ATMs for an hour.
On Friday, Goldberger, whose family fled Nazi oppression in 1943, said that he thought he would never again see those closest to him.
“I recall thinking about my dear wife of 50 years,” he said, moments before returning to his seat next to her.
When he was given a chance to speak, Sanders apologized to the victims. He said he was fully responsible for the crimes because he made God too small of a priority in his life. “The ultimate thing was, it was the Devil,” Sanders said. “I didn’t have enough strength to resist.”