Teen pleads guilty to murdering Iraqi boy, expresses remorse

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A teen accused of murdering an Iraqi immigrant by strangling him pleaded guilty on Friday to the killing.

Jean Sanchez, a 14-year-old, strangled Ameer Al Shammari, a 13-year-old Iraqi immigrant, in May of 2014. Officials say Sanchez strangled Al Shammari with a shoelace, then the strings of a hooded sweatshirt, over a cell phone.

Prosecutors detailed the actions that led Sanchez to kill Al Shammari, saying Sanchez lured Al Shammari to a secluded area where he promised to give back the boy’s iPhone, then bound Ameer’s hands, raped him and strangled him to death.

In addition to the second degree murder charges, Sanchez also faced charges of criminal sexual act, however all other charges have been dropped in accordance with a guilty plea in adult court.

Prosecutors working with police fought to try Sanchez as an adult, however Sanchez’s defense continued to petition to move the course to family court. His defense continued to petition their right to move the case to family court up until pleading guilty to the crime on Friday.

A hearing earlier in the week between both the prosecution and defense was cancelled with an order to meet again Friday, where both sides announced the plea, allowing Sanchez to plead guilty to second degree murder in exchange for a sentence of nine years to life. That sentence will be made official on Dec. 10.

Although his defense waived the right to appeal the guilty plea and sentence, they retained the right to appeal the court’s decision to try the 14-year-old as an adult, suggesting they may challenge the constitutionality of charging him with adult-level crimes.

However Erie County Court Justice Sheila DiTullio ruled in April that Sanchez would stand trial as an adult due to the severity of the crimes and Sanchez’s actions of aggression while in detention as the case moved forward.

Erie County’s District Attorney Frank Sedita said the boy, even while 13-years-old, knew he committed a heinous crime.

“Just about every 13-year-old, 14-year-old, fifteen, 16-year-old, by that age, knows that there are certain things you don’t do,” he said. “You don’t rape people. You don’t burn people’s houses down. You certainly don’t sodomize them and strangle them to death.”

For prosecution, it’s a success to allow the family of Al Shammari to put the case past them so they no longer need to relive the death of their son.

“We are additionally very happy for the family of Ameer Al Shammari,” Thomas Finnery, a prosecutor in the case, said. “They will not have to sit and listen to extraordinarily graphic testimony in this case.”

Defense for Sanchez, who was 13-years-old at the time of the murder, said the teen is remorseful for his crimes, however in court he remained stolid, answering questions in one-word responses.

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