The crimes were so horrific that even a longtime prosecutor choked on his words when he recalled what happened to the two victims.
On the evening of Dec. 5, 2015, two 21-year-old male students from the University of Rochester were lured to a house several miles from campus, believing they were headed to a party. One of the men and a female acquaintance had been flirting on Facebook, and the young woman invited them to come hang out.
Instead, the students walked into a trap. Moments after they arrived, the house went dark and a group of masked men pounced on them, bound them in duct tape and hauled them into a bathroom. There, over the next 40 hours, the attackers repeatedly tortured and sexually abused them, cutting them with knives and a chainsaw, dousing them in flammable liquids, and even shooting one in his legs. (The Post does not name victims of sexual abuse.)
A police SWAT team stormed the house the following day and rescued the students, and eventually nine people were arrested and charged. Matthew Schwartz, one of the lead prosecutors in the case, would later say it was incredible that the students survived.
“Something particularly horrible like this,” Schwartz told the Chicago Tribune, “sometimes it’s worse than homicide. The torture that went on is almost indescribable.”
On Wednesday, four people convicted in connection with the attack were sentenced in New York Supreme Court, among them the man who orchestrated the students’ abduction and torture.
Lydell Strickland, 27, was sentenced to 155 years to life in prison after being found guilty of more than two dozen charges, including kidnapping, assault, gang assault and sexual abuse, according to the Democrat and Chronicle.
In court Wednesday, Strickland was defiant, smiling as Justice Alex Renzi told him his crimes sounded like the script of a Quentin Tarantino movie, the Democrat and Chronicle reported.
“I was trying to think if there were any redeeming qualities that you had,” Renzi told him, “and I couldn’t come up with any.”
“How can someone do this to another human being?” he added.
Three of Strickland’s co-defendants were also sentenced for their roles in the case. David Alcaraz-Ubiles, convicted of kidnapping and weapons charges, received a 15-year prison sentence, which he will serve after he completes a 15-year sentence for an unrelated crime, the Democrat and Chronicle reported. Inalia Rolldan and Ruth Lora were sentenced to seven years each following their convictions on kidnapping and weapons charges. They were at the house when the students were taken captive, but they did not participate in the torture, according to the Democrat and Chronicle.
An attorney for Alcarez-Ubiles, 25, said his client did not assault the victims.
“I don’t think there was anybody who disagreed with the fact that my client didn’t hit anybody, didn’t torture anybody, didn’t go into any of the rooms where the individuals were being held,” Frank Ciardi told TWC News.
Rolldan’s attorney, James Riotto, said she was innocent of the charges.
“She played no part in this crime and was wrongfully convicted,” he told the Democrat and Chronicle.
Strickland’s attorney told TWC news he planned to appeal the sentence but did not elaborate. A defense attorney for Lora could not immediately be reached for comment but said during her trial last month that she had no role in the case other than a romantic interest in another suspect.
Five other defendants have pleaded guilty to various roles in the attack. In November, four of them received sentences ranging from 13 to 35 years in prison, the Democrat and Chronicle reported.
How the two students became the targets of such a brutal crime remained a mystery until last fall when court documents and testimony revealed the details of their ambush and torture.
Strickland and his co-defendants mistakenly believed the students, who played on the university’s football team, were involved in the robbery of a group of drug dealers in November 2015, prosecutors told the Tribune. Seeking retribution, the defendants convinced a woman to flirt with one of them on Facebook. The woman eventually invited him to a party in northeast Rochester, and he asked if he could bring the other, a friend.
“The second victim being involved was pure happenstance,” Schwartz told the Tribune.
On Dec. 5, 2015, two women picked up the students and drove them to the house, where Strickland and others were waiting in masks and dark clothing. They surrounded the students, and one of them was shot in the leg with a .22-caliber rifle as he tried to escape, shattering his femur, prosecutors said. After binding the students with duct tape, the group subjected them to a range of tortures over the course of nearly two days.
One of the students described the ordeal from the witness stand in November. He and his friend were beaten with pipes and bats, threatened with guns, and even cut with a chainsaw, he said, and recounted how the attackers sliced the skin between his toes with a knife and pliers, according to TWC News. At one point he was shot in his other leg and later had to undergo surgery. He told the court the defendants doused them in flammable liquid and threatened to light them on fire. He said the defendants also stole thousands of dollars from his bank accounts after forcing him to give up his passwords and identification numbers.
“The torture consists of something you would see in a movie, but it’s not a movie because this is real life,” he said, according to the Democrat and Chronicle.
The whole time, he said, the defendants seemed almost giddy. He recalled hearing from inside the bathroom men and women laughing and watching television.
“They were drinking and having a good time while there were people dying in the other room,” he testified. “At this point, my body was broken down and I didn’t know how much longer I could go on.”
Just before nightfall, after being held captive for some 40 hours, the students heard explosions outside, according to the Democrat and Chronicle. A police SWAT team had come to save them. Their roommates had reported them missing, and an investigation led police to one of the women who lured them to the house, the Tribune reported.
Neither of the victims appeared in court Wednesday.
“The victims wanted to begin to move on with their lives,” Schwartz, the prosecutor, told reporters after the sentences were handed down.
“Every time there’s another court appearance or proceeding,” he added, “it’s just a constant reminder of what took place last December.”
More from Morning Mix