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Man sentenced for violent 2008 Pittsfield robbery

A man convicted in May for a 2008 robbery that left a Pittsfield convenience store clerk with brain damage was sentenced yesterday in Merrimack County Superior Court to 71∕2 to 15 years in state prison.

Kevin Rawnsley, 30, was implicated last year in an unsolved February 2008 robbery at K2 Market in Pittsfield. The store’s video footage showed a man bashing the clerk’s head with a baseball bat, but the authorities were never able to identify him. Then last year, when his ex-wife, Stacey Rawnsley, faced separate criminal charges, she told authorities that Rawnsley committed the robbery. She became the prosecution’s star witness in the state’s case against him.

Seven and a half to 15 years is the maximum sentence for robbery with a deadly weapon. Rawnsley has spent the past 226 days at the Merrimack County jail after violating his bail conditions twice by testing positive for cocaine. When requesting the maximum sentence, Deputy County Attorney Catherine Ruffle cited his continued cocaine use as evidence that counseling and other deterrents have not worked.

The victim, Mohammad Shamim Ahmed, and his wife gave emotional statements to Judge Richard McNamara about the havoc the robbery wreaked on their lives. Rawnsley’s fiancee, Gabrielle Robarge, then spoke on his behalf. She is the daughter of Kelly Robarge, the Charlestown woman who authorities say was killed by her husband, James Robarge. Rawnsley and Robarge have a 2-year-old son, and Robarge said Rawnsley has never brought harm to either of them. In reference to her mother’s murder, she said only that her mother had passed away and her mother’s husband is incarcerated.

On the night of Feb. 16, 2008, Rawnsley was high on cocaine and looking to find money to buy more when he entered the K2 Market, Ruffle said. Video footage shows that the cash register at the front of the store was unattended, but Rawnsley walked to the back of the store where Ahmed was working. He then beat Ahmed over the head with a baseball bat before taking $200 in cash from the register. Ahmed suffered three lacerations on the side of his head that had to heal openly because they were too close together for stitches or staples.

“This was a violent and egregious act,” Ruffle said.

In a statement read by victims advocate Sarah Heath on his behalf, Ahmed said he now suffers from memory loss and constantly lives in fear. He is originally from Bangladesh and dreamed of taking the U.S. citizenship test, however, because of the injuries, he can no longer read or write well enough to take it. A statement from his doctor to the citizenship office was not enough to get him out of taking the test.

He is also more prone to outbursts or fits of rage, especially when his memory fails and he is confused. He and his wife, Tracy, have separated twice since the incident.

“Sometimes I think it better if I have no life if I have to live like this,” his statement said.

Tracy Ahmed then stood at the podium, where she struggled to hold back tears while explaining the “nightmare” she and her family now live. In addition to memory loss, Ahmed suffers from prolonged post-concussion syndrome and has daily headaches. Ahmed can barely go anywhere on his own because he easily gets lost or forgets where he is, she said.

“Imagine living trapped, unable to drive anywhere without fear of getting lost or feeling disoriented in a place you’ve been to hundreds of times,” Tracy Ahmed said.

Tracy Ahmed said she has tried everything to help Ahmed read and write again, including hiring a private tutor and purchasing Hooked on Phonics, but none of it worked.

“Mr. Rawnsley, you have put my husband in a prison of his own,” she said while looking directly at Rawnsley, who kept his eyes on the table in front of him.

Outside the courthouse, Tracy Ahmed said even though Rawnsley received the maximum sentence, she is not happy because she wishes he would never walk free again.

Rawnsley and his attorney, John Draghi, will appeal the sentence.

Draghi referenced Stacey Rawnsley’s motives when he made his argument for a lighter sentence of two to 10 years. The two have a 7-year-old child together, and one of Rawnsley’s sentencing conditions is no contact with his ex-wife. The child lives with Stacey Rawnsley’s mother, but Draghi said she and her mother are conspiring to keep Rawnsley away from the child. McNamara ruled that the no-contact order with Stacey Rawnsley will be revisited if she gains custody of the child.

Ruffle originally requested Rawnsley pay Ahmed restitution in an amount to be determined at a later date, but McNamara said the amount needed to be specific. After a discussion with Draghi, Ruffle dropped that request, saying the Ahmeds feared Rawnsley might commit future crimes to try to obtain the money. The family may seek restitution through victims advocacy groups.

“No amount of money will ever make them whole,” Ruffle said.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)

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