BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Jean Sanchez decided to spare his victim’s family and his own family the agony of a trial.
In May of last year he murdered a thirteen year old boy, Ameer Al Shamari, a refugee from Iraq. The killing was over a cell phone. Sanchez was also thirteen.
Erie County Judge Sheila DiTullio made sure several times that Sanchez, originally from Puerto Rico, understood the details of his plea and conviction. Sanchez had an interpreter by his side when the judge addressed him. His mother joined him when he made his guilty plea.
While Sanchez showed virtually no emotion, the faces of the Al Shamari family members in the courtroom reflected the agony of their loss. One family member broke down in tears.
Ameer’s body had been found in a field last May.
Prosecutors had proof that Sanchez, who made initial statements to police, had bound Ameer’s hands, strangled him with his own shoelace, and then used the pull- string on his hoodie after the shoelace broke. It may have taken as long as six minutes.
Sanchez, who did not want anyone to find out that he had earlier stolen Ameer’s cell phone, also had been charged with sexually abusing the boy.
“When Ameer confronted him to retrieve the phone,” said Erie County First Assistant District Attorney Michael Flaherty, Jr. “the defendant beat him unconscious and strangled him to death.”
Sanchez’s attorney, Paul Dell, told reporters “The proof was overwhelming of his guilt to the intentional murder of the victim. He gave a full confession…” Dell said Sanchez has been depressed and filled with remorse, but doesn’t show that side of himself in court. He said Sanchez is ready to face the consequences of his actions.
Amir had been given his cell phone as a reward for improving grades at Waterfront Elementary School in Buffalo. His family had hoped to live the “American Dream” after fleeing from persecution in Iraq.
“The poor kid never had a childhood,” said Flaherty. He sad Ameer’s uncle worked for the U.S. military in Iraq, repairing vehicles. “And so that put the entire family on death watches.” Thursday was the third anniversary of their arrival in the United States.
Although Sanchez is a juvenile, he was to be tried in adult court. Attorney Dell believes the case should have been handled in family court. He says science has now determined that the brain of a thirteen year old is not fully developed. Dell says he will challenge the constitutionality of New York’s law.
“If he had been twelve at the time we wouldn’t be here. It would have gone to family court. He would have been prosecuted as a juvenile delinquent,” said Dell.
However, because of his age, Sanchez now faces a maximum sentence of nine years to life. If he were an adult, he could have gotten twenty-five to life behind bars.
He will be formally sentenced in December.