A teen who admitted strangling a peer over an iPhone has been sentenced to nine years to life in prison.
This past October, Jean Sanchez, 14, pleaded guilty to second degree murder for killing 13-year-old Ameer Al Shammari in May 2014. It was a crime that shocked the entire Buffalo community.
Al Shammari’s body was found in a field in Buffalo’s Black Rock neighborhood by a man walking his dog on May 2. Sanchez had argued with Al Shammari over an iPhone that Al Shammari had received from his parents three days earlier for performing well at the Waterfront Elementary School.
Sanchez then lured Al Shammari to an empty field off of Amherst Street under the pretense of giving Al Shammari the phone back. Instead, Sanchez murdered and sodomized the Iraqi teenager.
Al Shammari and his family were refugees from Iraq who were threatened in their own country for helping the U.S. Army. A friendly general helped the family come to America through the United Nations, which settled them in Buffalo.
Two years after escaping insurgents, bombs and death threats, Al Shammari lost his lift while trying to get his cell phone back in Buffalo's Black Rock neighborhood. The crime sent shockwaves through the local Iraqi community, which is estimated to be around 2,500 people.
Sanchez gave a statement after Al Shammari’s body was found. Though he initially denied killing the teen, he eventually told authorities he had strangled Al Shammari with the teen’s shoelace. When the shoelace broke, he strangled Al Shammari with the string from his hoodie.
"This was a strangulation, this did not happen instantly. This took planning and effort and time," said Assistant District Attorney, Michael Flaherty.
Assistant District Attorney Thomas Finnerty says this murder took nearly seven minutes and that Sanchez became so aroused by what was happening that he also sexually assaulted Al Shammari.
During sentencing in Erie County Court, Judge Sheila DiTullio said Sanchez was the most violent teenager she ever dealt with in all her years on the bench.
"You should remain in jail for a very long time. It is simply the only way to protect this community from a criminal - a sadistic teenager like yourself," said Erie County Court Judge Sheila Ditullio.
Judge DiTullio says in her 35 years on the bench, she has never seen a teen as violent as Jean Sanchez. Finnerty says Sanchez had a violent history that included guns, threats and insubordinate behavior even before he killed Al Shammari.
Sanchez tried to say he was sorry, but loud crying from the victim's mother in court stopped the convicted killer from saying anything more.
Due to his age, Sanchez could be eligible for parole in nine years, but prosecutors and family members pleaded with the justice system to make sure that does not happen.
Al Shammari's family used an Iraqi interpreter to understand what was going on and they had a statement read on their behalf by prosecutors. Al Shammari's parents said their son was so happy to finally leave war-torn Iraq that he cried on the plane ride to America saying he could finally go outside and play.
Jean Sanchez will begin his jail term in a juvenile facility. When he turns 16, it will be determined if he will be placed in an adult facility.
Defense attorney Paul Dell said he plans to appeal the sentence on grounds it it is unconstitutional for someone who was 13-years-old at the time of the killing.
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