Man who admitted to brutal stabbings in Rome sentenced to 40 years to life

By Gary Liberatore

Around 6:20 a.m. on June 4, 27-year-old Aaron Welch of Schenectady was waiting outside the Rome home of his ex-girlfriend, 22-year-old Stephanie Morrison.

When Morrison arrived home from working overnight, Welch approached her from behind with a knife and stabbed her 13 times in her neck, back of the head, her back and her buttocks.

As she lay dying on her Myrtle Street porchsteps, her roommate's boyfriend, 31-year-old Shawn Kessler came running out to help, but Welch then stabbed him multiple times in the back, neck and one fatal blow to the chest.

On Friday, Welch was sentenced for both murders and will spend 20 years to life on each count.

He will be eligible for parole after serving those 40 years.

After imposing that sentence, Oneida County Court Judge Barry Donalty said this was one of the most vicious crimes he has ever seen in his 40 years in the justice system, and put the following on the record so the parole board in the year 2053 will read it:

"These minutes are going to go with you to the Department of Corrections and I want any future parole board to know that you, Mr. Welch, should never be granted parole. Your actions should result in forfeiting any and all chance for you to ever walk again in free society, and I want that to be made perfectly clear to any future parole board.  Don't let him out."

Family and friends of the victims were given the opportunity to give a victim impact statement during Friday's sentencing.

Stephanie Morrison's mother, Vera Morrison began to speak, and got the following out, before being overcome with emotion, "We can no longer talk, laugh, cry, hold, or see her again....

Oneida County Assistant District Attorney Todd Carville then continued on to read the rest of Vera Morrison's written words, and those included this following powerful passage, "You have given us a permanent picture in our minds and hearts of Stephanie's and Shawn's last moments.  The only thing I really remember about making my baby's funeral arrangements is, they weren't sure she could have an open casket."

Also speaking, Morrison's best friend, Mary Roe, who spoke directly to Aaron Welch, "You took someone away from me who is not only my best friend of 13 years but someone who is a sister to me.  Family is not always blood, it is someone who is there for you, as Stephanie was to me, and I was to her."

Roe went on to say, "The day I had to tell my children that they won't be able to see someone they love because she is an angel above is one of the worst days of my life.  You're a waste of space, and you're worthless.  I hope you can live with yourself for the rest of your miserable life behind bars."

After the court proceeding, Amber Renzi, Shawn Kessler's best friend talked with the media.

Renzi, wearing a T-shirt with pictures of Kessler on it said this day is bittersweet, finally giving everyone closure in the court case, but bringing up the horror of that morning all over again.

Renzi says Shawn will always be remembered for his heroic act that day.

"That was who Shawn was.  Shawn was the kind of person who would take his shirt off and give it to you before he even asked him for it," she said. "He was a kind person, they say chivalry is dead, but it's not and he proved that."

When asked by Judge Donalty whether he has anything to say, Aaron Welch said the following: "These people are absolutely right and I deserve what I have coming to me."

Welch will be eligible for parole in the year 2053, due to time served since the crimes were committed in 2013.

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