Pleasantville man gets 30 years in fatal Chrismas Eve shooting

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MAYS LANDING – A Pleasantville man was sentenced to 30 years in state prison for the fatal shooting of a Somers Point man on Christmas Eve in 2011, acting Atlantic County prosecutor Jim McClain said.

Lenny R. Ross Jr., 31, pleaded guilty to manslaughter Jan. 7 in the killing of Steven Gurss Jr., 28. 

When he entered the guilty plea, Ross said he had met Gurss to sell him heroin and shot him during a dispute over money.

However, on Feb. 7, Ross asked to withdraw his guilty plea. After a hearing, Superior Court Judge Michael Donio denied the motion, saying that Ross had had “knowingly and voluntarily entered the plea” and had provided “no colorable claim of innocence” or reasons to justify vacating the plea.

On Dec. 24, 2011, Pleasantville police responded to a 911 report of a shooting outside the Marina Del Ray Apartments and discovered Gurss sitting in vehicle with bullet wounds to the head. He was pronounced dead at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center City Campus.

Police arrested Ross July 12, 2012 in Atlantic City after a seven-month investigation by the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Unit and the Pleasantville Police Department.

He was charged with murder, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, unlawful possession of a weapon, and possession of a weapon by a convicted person.

Bail was set at $1 million full cash, and Ross has remained in custody since his arrest.

Gurss’s parents tearfully addressed the court and Ross prior to his sentencing.

“You put a gun to my baby boy’s head. You killed a human being,” the victim’s mother told Ross.

“I feel that Lenny Ross should go away to jail for a long time,” the victim’s father said. “My grandson will never know his father.”

During sentencing, Chief Assistant Prosecutor Janet Gravitz recommended the maximum term, arguing that Ross continues to be a danger to the community as a violent drug dealer with prior convictions for selling drugs and carrying guns.

“This defendant will certainly reoffend,” Gravitz said.

Donio sentenced Ross to the maximum term allowed by law, citing his risk to the public as a “major drug dealer” with a “propensity for carrying weapons.”

Ross must serve 25.5 years before he is eligible for parole.

Teonka Williams, 28, of Pleasantville had pleaded guilty to hindering apprehension – a third-degree crime – for providing false information to authorities to hinder Ross’s arrest.

She received three years of probation.

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