YOUNGSTOWN - Joe Kaluza said Tuesday that the couple convicted of the robbery that left him paralyzed took just about everything from him except one thing: Love.
''I'm determined, above all, to enjoy the big and small joys, and to be there for my family and to share in their lives,'' Kaluza said from his wheelchair during the sentencing of Taran Helms, 22, and Hattie Gilbert, 20, in the courtroom of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Judge Timothy Franken.
''Their love is something you can't take away with a bullet or anything else.''
Joe Kaluza sits in his wheelchair and reads a prepared statement to the court as his sister, Anna Fitzgerald, holds the statement during the sentencing of Taran Helms and Hattie Gilbert Tuesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. For more photos, visit cu.tribtoday.com
Hattie Gilbert listens to Judge Tim Franken during her sentencing Tuesday in Youngstown. Testimony showed her as the mastermind of the robbery.
Taran Helms listens during his sentencing Tuesday. He was convicted of pulling the trigger that left Kaluza paralyzed. He was sentenced to the maximum 50 years.
The pair each were sentenced Tuesday to 50 years in prison.
A jury convicted them Thursday of attempted murder, aggravated robbery, felonious assault and kidnapping. All the counts include a specification that a firearm was used to commit the crime. The sentences are the maximum allowed by law, Franken said.
Helms declined to address the victim, but Gilbert looked directly at Kaluza and apologized.
''I cannot take back anything I did, but I apologize,'' Gilbert said. ''I would also like to apologize to the community for the uproar I caused.''
Reading from a statement held by his sister Anna Fitzgerald, Kaluza said his two special needs children, 21-year-old Josh and 12-year-old Tiffany, do not understand why he no longer can hold them. The robbery also took away time he spent with his wife, Lisa, and walks the family would take, as well as family drives they would make every Saturday.
As just about everyone in the courtroom, including a female deputy, wiped away tears, Kaluza said the laughter of those drives is something he misses.
''The music of that laughter is only something I can visit in my memory,'' Kaluza said. ''This senseless act of violence and greed did not take my life away but it's taken the most precious part of it.''
Kaluza was shot in the neck March 24 after a car driven by Gilbert ran him off the road while he was making a deposit from the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant he managed on South Avenue.
After he was run off the road, Helms emerged from hiding, shot Kaluza in the neck and took $306 from his van.
Gilbert was traced through a Western Reserve Transit Authority video that captured the accident, which allowed detectives to trace her car. She confessed when confronted four days later and Helms was arrested a short time later.
Gilbert was being evicted from her apartment and needed the money, so she planned the robbery, according to trial testimony. Helms' mother worked at the restaurant before being fired for theft and knew the deposit routine, prosecutors said.
Defense lawyer John Juhasz, who represents Helms, spoke briefly, saying that the attempted murder and felonious assault sentences should be considered as one offense and that the firearm specifications also should merge. Juhasz and Martin Yavorcik, who represents Helms, both said they plan to appeal.
Assistant Prosecutor Kasey Shidel asked for the maximum, saying the crime was cold and calculating, and targeted a man who did his best to obey the law, work and contribute to the community.
Franken said he held each defendant equally responsible. He said Helms meant to kill Kaluza and pointed to testimony by a witness who saw a gunman later identified as Helms run up to Kaluza's van never breaking his stride.
''You never said give me the money. You shot the man first,'' Franken said.
Kaluza addressed the school of thought that says tragedy makes a person better.
''I really don't see how what happened can make me a better person, but I am determined not to allow myself to be a bitter person,'' Kaluza said.
Outside of court, Kaluza's wife Lisa said the family still tries to spend time together by watching television or going for a ride in a specially equipped van whenever they can. She admitted caring for the children and her husband is challenging but added there is no other option.
''You have to do what you have to do,'' she said.