Son speaks of family grief after fatal garden hose row
A loner who shot dead his two neighbours at close range was angry they had turned off his garden hose.
Rodney Lee, 73, pleaded guilty at the Supreme Court of Victoria on Monday to the murders of Saumotu Gasio, 62, and Tibor Laszlo, 72.
The court heard Lee, now wheelchair bound, fired a shotgun at the two men, both at close range, at their Mordialloc apartment complex on January 13, 2022.
Mr Gasio's son Rasta told the court his family had been affected by the loss.
"We've got a big family, I've got seven other siblings, we're all struggling," Rasta said outside court.
"None of us are happy obviously, but it's time we can move forward and come together - hopefully he's sentenced accordingly.
"Two people, 40 years is what he should be sentenced to."
Lee was retired and had no family or friends, but took a great interest in gardening and had taken it upon himself to care for and nurture gardens in the common areas of the complex.
He had increasing disagreements with numerous neighbours about leaving the tap run in the garden, as well as his concerns others were making too much noise or accusations some were cooking and doing drugs.
On the day of the shooting, Lee returned to the hose to find it had been turned off.
"If you turn off the hose again you bastards, I'll f***ing kill you," Lee shouted in anger, according to court documents.
As a result of his outburst, a heated exchange with another neighbour ended when Lee struck the man with a chair.
Later that night, Lee went to move the garden hose, to find it had again been turned off.
Mr Gasio and Mr Laszlo were part of a group socialising in the common area at the time.
Lee exchanged words with Mr Gasio who told him "water is precious", before he went to his apartment, grabbed a shotgun hidden under his bed and returned to shoot Mr Gasio in the chest.
He then followed Mr Gasio and neighbours trying to help the injured man into another apartment when he shot Mr Laszlo.
Lee also fired shots into another apartment.
He was arrested by Critical Incident Response police after a brief stand-off where he refused to drop his weapon and went inside to write a note explaining his actions.
Lee's barrister Andrew Waters said through his guilty plea, his client had accepted he would spend the rest of his life in jail as a consequence of his actions.
It will be a lonely existence, because he has no one to visit him.
But a difficult childhood, marked with violence, affected his ability to feel remorse.
"His dysfunctional personality to some degree distorted his ability to evaluate the situation ... he had intended to cause injury, but not death and that is evident from his statement to police where he said 'get them off to hospital and then we will talk'," Mr Waters told the court.
Prosecutor Patrick Bourke baulked at the suggestion Lee had not meant to kill his victims.
"The approximate range from which he fires the shots was between two and three metres from his victims ... our submission is that it is apparent to everyone what the consequences of that conduct could be at that range," Mr Bourke said.
Lee was remanded in custody to be sentenced at a later date.