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At sentencing, family voices its pain


Lois Decker’s murderer sentenced: 20-years to life

HUDSON–Lois Decker’s daughter will never know the end of her mother’s story.


During the sentencing of convicted murderer Shafiqul Islam, 21, in Columbia County Court, Tuesday morning, five women related to Mrs. Decker, the 73-year-old Hillsdale resident who was brutally strangled in her home, November 20, 2011, delivered victim-impact statements in open court about what the loss of their mother and sister meant to them as well as their families and the community she lived in.


In her heart-wrenching statement purposefully focused on her “lovely mother,” Dr. Diane Demarest, who had traveled from the West Coast to speak, told the court that her mother’s life was selflessly devoted to her family. “She was the glue that held us together.” She said the tragic and violent aspects of her mother’s death are overwhelming and leave her fearful despite deadbolt locks and a security system. She has visions of fighting an unknown attacker… fighting for her mother’s life.


Because Mr. Islam refused to give a statement to police about the events leading up to her mother’s death, Dr. Demarest said she will never know about her mother’s final moments, which leaves her feeling angry and helpless.


She asked why Mr. Islam had made the “inexplicable decision” to murder her mother, “What could have set him off…. Why was she found in our room?…. I need to know the end of her story.” To believe any sentence could make up for the loss of her mother was “preposterous,” said Dr. Demarest, noting she hoped Mr. Islam’s sentence would never be done. For murdering her mother, he will have “a black mark on his soul that will follow him all his days.”


Tara Decker, Mrs. Decker’s daughter-in-law read a statement on behalf of her brother-in-law, Craig, Mrs. Decker’s son. She said, Mrs. Decker was a patriot, who lost both an uncle and brother in past wars. She called Mr. Islam a coward, who has done a “disgraceful cowardly thing… and why, we’ll never know.” Even as years pass this will still haunt our family, she said.

Sue Call, Mrs. Decker’s sister, said Lois “had so much more living to do…She should have been a little old lady when she died by God’s hand, not by yours.”


Mrs. Decker’s sister Pam Keeler said she still expects to see her sister driving up in her little white car. They regularly went out to eat and took trips together. She remembered her sister especially on Flag Day, as she never missed a chance to wave the flag. Ms. Keeler said she has trouble sleeping and dreams about what her sister went through. She said Mr. Islam had “taken away our peace of mind and nothing will ever be the same.”


Debbie Bordeaux said her sister Lois loved all children and enjoyed nothing more than reading to them.

Columbia County Court Judge Jonathan Nichols sentenced Mr. Islam, 21, to an indeterminate term of 20 years to life in prison for second degree murder and an indeterminate sentence of 2 to 4 years on each of the three counts of fourth degree criminal possession of stolen property charges to which he pleaded guilty May 24.


Prior to sentencing, Mr. Islam’s attorney Michael Howard told the court his client would not speak. Mr. Howard then haltingly, choked with emotion, read an apologetic statement on his client’s behalf.


Unexpectedly, Mr. Islam then said he would speak, saying he knew there was nothing he say or do to make up for what happened nor any way to bring any peace into the hearts of everyone affected. He went on to say that even though he did not know Mrs. Decker, “she had momentous love and affection for you guys. I really am sorry and though you are not able to forgive me, maybe God will someday.”


Before announcing the sentence, Judge Nichols told Mr. Islam that it was because of the diligent efforts of law enforcement that he was brought to justice and that his conviction was inescapable.


He blasted Mr. Islam, saying, “I don’t know how you can stand here and say you have some idea about how much their mother or sister loved them. How can you pretend to know?”


Judge Nichols made reference to Mr. Islam’s status as a predicate felon and registered sex offender convicted of promoting a sexual performance by a child under 17, who was inexplicable released by federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials despite an Immigration Court order that he be deported back to his native Bangladesh.


Six weeks after his release, Mr. Islam killed Mrs. Decker.


Because Mr. Islam pleaded guilty to the crimes, making a trial and the presentation of evidence unnecessary, Judge Nichols ordered that that murder scene photos and autopsy photos be permanently attached to Mr. Islam’s criminal record in order that the “hideous nature” of Mr. Islam’s crimes will never in the future elude any official reviewing it whether it be for an appeal or parole.


The photos, the judge said, will do an excellent job of conveying the “highly disturbing” nature of the defendant’s acts and will “follow him for the rest of his life–as they should.


“The brutality of your crime is reflected in the photos and cannot be overstated. The depravity of acts [committed] upon the body are unspeakable,” said the judge, adding that he hoped Mr. Islam would have a constantly running movie of his crimes in his mind and should never be able to escape.


Judge Nichols said he thought Mr. Islam could never be rehabilitated and parole would never release him from prison.


Mrs. Decker, a Sunday school teacher and retired Roeliff Jansen School cafeteria head cook, was found dead in her home at 18 Cold Water Street by Sheriff’s Office Sergeant John DeRocha, who went there after being unable to contact her by phone about her car, which was involved in an accident earlier that evening.


The case began to unfold when deputies were called to the scene of a one-car rollover accident on State Route 23 in Martindale, Sunday, November 20, 2011 at 6:42 p.m. Two local people came upon the accident and stopped to assist the young man involved in the crash, later identified as Mr. Islam. But when the passersby tried to help the driver, he allegedly attempted drive off with a vehicle belonging to one of them. After both people who had stopped to help prevented him from stealing the car, Mr. Islam fled on foot, went to a nearby house and within a few minutes stole a pickup truck from an attached garage.


The stolen truck, operated by Mr. Islam, was found by State Police Sergeant Fred Mueller at the intersection of Warren and Sixth streets in Hudson at 9:56 p.m. Mr. Islam was subsequently charged with being in possession of the stolen truck and was jailed.


He was indicted for Mrs. Decker’s murder and stealing her car and her credit card in February of this year.


At the sentencing, Judge Nichols also issued a court order of protection to keep Mr. Islam away from any of Mrs. Decker’s family members for 100 years. “I don’t think you’ll make 100 years,” said the judge, but in any case “it’s not long enough.”


District Attorney Paul Czajka offered no sentencing recommendation, when asked by the judge, but said he had “no doubt” that the judge would “do that which is just in all respects.”


Following the sentencing, DA Czajka told The Columbia Paper by phone that he was “extremely satisfied” with the outcome and that in all likelihood Mr. Islam will “never get out.”


To contact Diane Valden email

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