Melbourne man Rodney John Lee sentenced over double murder triggered by garden hose dispute
A dispute over a garden hose left a Melbourne pensioner so enraged that he pulled out a shotgun and killed two of his neighbours.
Rodney John Lee, 74, was today sentenced to 30 years in jail over the double murder of Saumoto Gasio and Tibor Laszlo at a Mordialloc unit block.
Lee is likely to die in jail, Justice James Elliott said, describing the killer's actions on January 13, 2022 as "senseless and brutally violent".
The Supreme Court heard tensions between Lee and several neighbours escalated in the months leading up to the shooting in Melbourne's south-east.
Lee had accused one neighbour's grandson of being a drug dealer, and was angry others would turn off a hose he used to water a communal garden.
On the day of the killings, Lee left the hose running and went inside his apartment, later screaming in anger when he realised that the water had been shut off.
According to court documents, Lee yelled to his neighbours: "You turn the hose off again you bastards, I'll f***ing kill you."
Later that night, Lee confronted residents in the garden. He got into a scuffle with Mr Gasio, who told him he would ignore demands about the hose because water was a precious resource.
Lee then went back to his unit and armed himself with his grandfather's shotgun. He headed back to the group and from close range fired at Mr Gasio, who was sitting on a bench.
Residents ran for their lives, and a badly wounded Mr Gasio stumbled into a neighbour's unit.
As neighbours tried to help Mr Gasio, Lee came through the door and fired the shotgun again, this time hitting Mr Laszlo.
Both men died at the scene.
During his police interview, Lee told detectives: "I've been provoked a bit haven't I? I've never hurt anyone in my life but enough's enough."
Justice Elliott said Lee had shown little remorse for his actions, and continued to believe he was the victim in the neighbourhood dispute.
"Nothing could justify the disproportionate, senseless and brutally violent way in which you responded," Justice Elliott said.
"You murdered two people in their places of residence, where they were entitled to feel safe, in the presence of other residents of the unit complex.
"Both victims were completely defenceless against you."
Mr Gasio, 62, was a father of eight who taught boxing and taekwondo for 25 years.
Outside court, his son Damien Gasio described him as an "amazing father and friend" and thanked the neighbours who tried to save his life.
Meanwhile, the court heard Mr Laszlo, 57, was a jeweller who had lived in Sydney, Croatia and Germany before settling in Melbourne.
At the Mordialloc unit complex today, neighbour Janice Bateman described the victims as "beautiful men".
"They were delightful, they were kind, they were nice," she said.
"Part of our life is missing that can never be replaced."
Fellow neighbour Bob Teear said Lee was "a complete coward" and was relieved to hear the killer would serve a long jail term.
"He was ruthless, he was heartless … he wasn't a very nice person," Mr Teear said.
In court, Justice Elliott said Lee had suffered from a traumatic childhood, but had gone on to have a stable working life before his retirement at age 58. He then volunteered at a local church, made toys for children, and had no prior convictions before the fatal attack.
Lee appeared via video link from prison.
During the hearing sat slumped over a desk and appeared to fall asleep. He was jolted awake by Justice Elliott when the judge handed down his sentence for the double murder.
The court heard Lee suffered from multiple medical conditions and now used a wheelchair.
Lee was sentenced to 30 years jail, and will be required to serve at least 24 years behind bars. He has already spent 565 days in custody.
He will be aged 97 by the time he is eligible for parole in early 2046.
"You'll almost certainly be imprisoned for the remainder of your life," Justice Elliott said.
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