Belton Lee Brims Back in Rockland Court

Written atop the judge’s calendar of cases today was a blast from Rockland’s homicidal past – Belton Lee Brims. Next to the notorious criminal’s name were the words “vacate judgment.”

Brims currently is finishing out a New Jersey prison sentence of 35 years for robbing a supermarket with a shotgun. He could be released  by New Jersey  anytime between December 2009 and April 2018.

He then would serve a  New York sentence of 50 years to life for murdering a Spring Valley couple in 1980 and a separate 25 years for first-degree escape.

Brims is seeking to cut down his sentence in New York.

His motion to vacate claims he spent prison time in New York before starting his New Jersey sentence, so his New York sentence started nearly 28 years ago and continues today. He essential is claiming his New York prison time should run concurrent with his New Jersey sentence.

The Rockland District Attorney’s Office is opposing his motion. Itamar Yeger, who handles appeals for the Rockland District Attorney’s Office, noted that the sentencing judge, Howard Miller,  sentenced Brims to separate time in New York for murder and escape.

Yeger said the laws allows for Brims to serve separate time in New Jersey and then in New York. And he says the clock stopped in New York when Brims began serving his prison time in New Jersey.

Regardless of the outcome, Brims can’t become eligible for parole until 2055 for the murder and escape convictions.

Brims’ motion to vacate is before Judge Catherine Bartlett. Miller is now on the appellate division.

For whose who don’t remember Brims, the Spring Valley man was convicted of murdering Arnold and Elaine Sohn on Dec. 29, 1980.

Brims and his co-killer, James Sheffield, were directed to the couple’s Jill Lane home by their daughter, Sheryl,  who was drug-addicted and indebted to Brims, known on the streets as Panama.

Brims and Sheffield were going to steal jewelry – especially Sheryl Sohn’s grandmother’s ring  that she wanted. No one was suppose to be home, but the Sohns came home early from a holiday party. Brims and Sheffield beat them and drowned Elaine Sohn in the bath tub.

Sheryl Sohn served 26 years of a sentence of 25 years to life, being paroled in December 2006.

Sheffield is working off a 52-year sentence for the double murder. He fled the night of the Sohn killings, and later talked his way out of police custody in New Jersey and Toronto. He was eventually captured in California and returned to Rockland.

After being arrested, Brims escaped  from the old Rockland County jail and was later caught in Selma, Ala.

Steve Lieberman

Steve Lieberman joined The Journal News as an editor in February 1984 and became a reporter during the spring of 1986. He has covered police, courts and legal issues for more than a decade, after reporting on county, town, village and state governments and general issues. He received more than a dozen state awards for writing and reporting. Born and raised in The Bronx, he has lived in Rockland since 1988.