A man in Australia who murdered two of his neighbors with a shotgun over a feud about a garden hose was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Monday, with a judge describing the killings as “senseless and brutally violent.”
Rodney Lee, 74, had earlier pleaded guilty to the murders of Saumoto Gasio, 62, and Tibor Laszlo, 57, at their public housing complex in Melbourne in January 2022. The court heard a bizarre story of how a rising yearslong dispute between Lee and his neighbors finally spilled over into deadly violence.
Lee began taking an active role in maintaining the communal areas—including the garden—at the apartment complex in the suburb of Mordialloc in 2006. In 2020, tension started to build between Lee and other residents when he became angry about people drinking and playing loud music in the communal areas, and he even reported a new neighbor to police in 2021 over suspicions that the man’s grandson was dealing drugs, according to ABC.
He would also get irate at others for turning off a hose he used to water the communal garden. On Jan. 13, 2022, the day of the killings, Lee had left the hose running and later yelled at his neighbors when he discovered the water had been turned off.
“You turn the hose off again you bastards, I’ll fucking kill you,” Lee shouted at his neighbors, according to court documents. Later the same night, Lee confronted a group of residents in the communal garden and got into an altercation with Gasio, who told him that he wouldn’t comply with Lee’s demands because water was a precious resource.
Enraged about the hose being turned off again, Lee went back into his apartment and grabbed his grandfather’s shotgun from under his bed. He then went back to the group and opened fire, shooting Gasio in the chest and upper arm.
Gasio and the others fled in fear for their lives. Gasio managed to get into a ground floor apartment in an attempt to hide, but Lee reloaded and followed his victim. Lee entered through the apartment’s door and shot Laszlo as he attempted to help Gasio. Both men died at the scene from their injuries.
Lee later surrendered to authorities. “I’ve been provoked a bit haven’t I?” Lee said during a police interview. “I’ve never hurt anyone in my life but enough’s enough.”
Justice James Elliott said that Lee repeatedly confessed to the killings but showed little remorse for his actions, instead maintaining the belief that he was the victim of the feud with his neighbors. “Nothing could justify the disproportionate, senseless and brutally violent way in which you responded,” Elliott said. “Nothing could justify the disproportionate, senseless and brutally violent way in which you responded. Both victims were completely defenseless against you.”
Lee may not survive until he becomes eligible for parole after serving at least 24 years of his 30-year sentence in 2046.
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