BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Jean Sanchez, the 13-year-old accused killer of Ameer Al Shammari, appeared in court Friday afternoon for a felony hearing.
Sanchez is charged as an adult with second degree murder, but because of Sanchez’s age, cameras were not allowed inside Buffalo City Court. Sanchez has pleaded not guilty.
During the hearing, it was revealed the medical examiner ruled 13-year-old Ameer Al Shammari died from ligature strangulation.
According to a statement Sanchez gave to police on May 6, he first strangled Ameer with the teen’s own shoelace. When the shoelace broke, according to the statement, Sanchez used a cord from Ameer’s hooded sweatshirt to strangle him.
Ameer was a seventh grader at Waterfront Elementary School. He had recently done well in school and his parents had rewarded him with a new iPhone.
Buffalo Police believe Ameer was murdered over a cell phone. His body was found Saturday off Amherst Street in Black Rock by a man out walking his dogs.
Sanchez’s lawyer, Paul Dell, argued the statement given to police was without the supervision of his parents. He said Sanchez was separated from his parents while being interviewed at Buffalo State College.
Dell said, “This is a 13-year-old. In the middle of the night, they drive him to Buff State, they separate him from his mother. Thirteen-year-old kids, alone, in an interrogation room with officers with badges and guns. Eventually, I think they’re going to say anything they want him to say.”
On Wednesday, News 4 spoke to Buffalo Police Commissioner Dan Derenda, who said Sanchez’s parents were present as their son was interviewed.
Several sources told News 4 there were signs of a possible sexual assault, when police found Ameer’s body. Sanchez’s lawyer would not comment on that.
Dell said DNA samples have been taken from many people in this case. He said he believes the police think more than one person was involved in the death of Ameer.
“I know that as recently as last night, they were knocking on doors and asking for teenagers to give their DNA samples,” Dell said.
This case is now being sent to a grand jury. Sanchez will go back to an east side detention center until his next court appearance.
The District Attorney’s Office says defendants who are 13-year-old face a minimum of five years and a maximum of nine years to life in prison if convicted of second degree murder. Until 1978, you had to be at least 16 to be charged as an adult.
Dell said, “The New York State law is antiquated. It’s 30-years-old and it was written before we knew more about the bring. He’s putting up a strong face, but I… I represented a 13-year-old boy. He’s scared.”
Earlier this week friends and family gathered for an emotional goodbye. Ameer’s family came to America from Iraq around a year and a half ago in search of a better life.
On Saturday, Buffalo Public Schools are holding a peace gathering at the Delaware Park Rose Garden at 6 p.m. in honor of Ameer.