Authorities in Blair County say the man who was charged in the death of corrections officer Rhonda Russell will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Officials say Christopher Aikens was sentenced Monday to life in prison after previously pleading guilty to charges of second-degree murder and murder of a law enforcement officer.
Nearly two years ago, Officer Russell was shot and killed when authorities say Aikens attempted to escape from central court by taking her gun and holding her hostage.
Investigators say a responding Altoona officer opened fired and unintentionally struck Officer Russell during the confrontation.
Aikens pleaded guilty in the case last month, on the day that jury selection was scheduled to begin for his trial.
“Almost two years ago to the day, Officer Russell fought for her life and lost the battle to a previously convicted felon during an escape attempt. Today, in exchange for the life of Officer Russell, the court sentenced Christopher Aikens to be housed, fed, kept, and clothed in a State Correctional Institute for the rest of his natural life. While it will not return Officer Russell to the arms of her family, it will hopefully allow them the small comfort of at least knowing that her murderer will never walk free again. We gratefully thank the State Police for an untiring investigation that helped pave the way to today’s sentencing. And, finally, we ask the community to take a moment today to recognize all of our law enforcement officers: they stand between our citizens and criminals like Mr. Aikens. In Blair County especially, as they did in Central Court on November 17, 2021, these officers stand strong. We appreciate their courage.”
Authorities did not specify which state correctional facility Aikens will serve his sentence at.