Sampson murder victims’ relatives share pain in court

Gary Sampson in a 2004 file photo.
Gary Sampson, shown in 2004, is back in court for a new sentencing trial. –AP

They are the victims behind 15 years of court proceedings and legal wrangling: Philip McCloskey, a 69-year-old retired plumber from Taunton and father of six; and 19-year-old Jonathan Rizzo, a college student who wanted to save the world.

Gary Lee Sampson killed them both in a violent spree in the summer of 2001, and for the past 15 years, federal prosecutors have sought the death penalty for the brutal crimes, a process that has led to lengthy appeals.

Relatives of McCloskey and Rizzo have waited for an end to the proceedings, and on Thursday they were back on the witness stand in federal court in Boston. McCloskey’s daughters told the jury how their father enjoyed the beach and the holidays. Rizzo’s younger brothers described how they had looked up to him.

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Rizzo’s mother, Mary, told jurors of the car rides they shared, and the songs they sang. She also recounted her heartbreak when she found out her son had been tied to a tree and stabbed. She wanted to see his body but was not allowed. So she reached into a closet and gave a blanket to an investigator, asking him to cover her son’s body.

“I just wanted him covered up, but more than anything I wanted my hands on this blanket, and my love, to be covering him,” she told jurors.

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