Two of the men accused of murdering University premed student Robert Janke in August 1991 were convicted of the crime last Tuesday. Carlton Bennett, 21, and Giovanni Reed, 17, were both convicted of second-degree murder, conspiracy and robbery. Both men were sentenced to life in prison and, barring a pardon from the the governor, they will not be eligible for parole. A third man, Dwayne Bennett, 21, of South Philadelphia confessed to committing first-degree murder, and was sentenced to life in prison plus 17 and a half to 35 years for other charges. Janke was accosted on August 10, just before 6 a.m., as he stood by a pay phone near his apartment at 17th and South streets. Three men surrounded Janke at gunpoint, and forced him south down 17th Street, toward Kater Street. They robbed him of $5, which they left at the scene, and shot him in the head. In the wake of last week's conviction, friends remembered Janke as a caring person with great potential. "I thought he was a most unusual person, who had the potential to be a fine physician," said Vice Dean for pre-health programs Katherine Pollak. "He wanted to work in urban medicine. Urban blight was both the cause of his murder, and the reason he was going into medicine." "He was a very outgoing person, he was very sincere, and he wanted to help the community," said Dennis Decker, a coordinator for Center City Nite Watch, a town watch orginization for which Janke worked. "He was one hell of a guy," Decker added. "He was very gentle, very kind. There wasn't one person who didn't like him. He had a way about him -- when he walked into a room, he lit it up. He's missed by everybody still." "He was a really nice kid," said Bobbi White, another Nite Watch coordinator. "He was a decent human being. When he first got killed, all anyone could say was 'What a loss.' " "It wasn't just the waste of Robert Janke, but the three kids who are in jail for the rest of their lives," White added. "The whole thing is so pathetic." But Assistant District Attorney Michael McGovern, who prosecuted the case, said he is glad the men received life sentences and stressed that students need to be cautious in the city. "I have tried over one hundred murder trials, and to me this was one of the most unspeakable tragedies that I have seen in my years as a DA," McGovern said. "The thing that gratifies me the most is that the jury showed that justice can be done. I think the public is very fortunate that these three men will spend the rest of their lives in prison." McGovern also found it ironic that a man so concerned with keeping the city safe and helping sick and injured people should be the victim of violent crime. "This young man was giving his life to saving lives, and these young men were able to snuff out his dream in a matter of seconds," McGovern said. "It boggles the mind that these men could kill him when he was begging for his life.
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