NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A deaf Harlem man was sentenced Wednesday to 21 years to life in prison for stabbing his girlfriend to death.

According to prosecutors, Bismark Lithgow, 26, stabbed 19-year-old Francis Pellerano, who was also deaf, 38 times in Feburary 2013. Her body was found inside a 50-gallon barrel in the bedroom they shared at his grandmother’s apartment.

“As revealed at trial, Bismark Lithgow had a history of irrational and controlling behavior in relationships, even attempting to hire a hitman to kill an ex-girlfriend whom he believed had been unfaithful,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said in a news release.

“In this case, Lithgow made multiple unsuccessful attempts to purchase a gun after he believed his girlfriend, Francis Pellerano, was flirting with other men on social media. Eventually, he stabbed her to death as she was planning to leave the relationship.”

One side of the courtroom Wednesday was packed with Pellerano’s family, WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported.

Her great uncle, Miguel Santos, told the court: “It is so tragic. Nothing will bring her back to our arms.”

He asked for justice.

“No one has the power to decide that someone else’s life has no value,” Santos said. “No one.”

Lithgow sobbed throughout his sentencing.

His lawyer told the court Lithgow was an incredibly damaged person who had asked friends if he should kill his girlfriend because she cheated.

“If anyone had looked,” the attorney said, “the signs were there that he needed help.”

Prosecutor Dafna Yoran observed that nobody chooses a rough upbringing or a disability, but those factors did not give him the right to take a life.

Judge Laura Ward told Lithgow: “You killed an innocent young girl living with the same disability. She had her entire life ahead of her.”

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