Thirteen-year-old Jean Sanchez sexually attacked Ameer Al Shammari in a Black Rock field last May before strangling the 13-year-old Iraqi immigrant, according to new information released at Sanchez’s arraignment Tuesday.
Standing tearfully in handcuffs in front of Erie County Judge Sheila A. DiTullio, Sanchez, a native of Puerto Rico, pleaded not guilty to charges of committing a criminal sexual act, sexual abuse, both in the first-degree, and second-degree murder, all felonies listed in the indictment against him.
Sanchez also was charged with misdemeanor petit larceny for allegedly stealing Ameer’s cell phone earlier in the day on May 2.
DNA evidence, a confession to the murder and surveillance video showing the two teenagers heading in the direction of the overgrown field off Amherst Street, near Churchill Street, were cited by Assistant District Attorney Paul Parisi in successfully making a case to DiTullio that Sanchez should remain held without bail at the Youth Services Detention Center on East Ferry Street.
Dell also plans to file a motion to move the case to Erie County Family Court, where Sanchez, if convicted, would be released at the age of 21. In county criminal court, if convicted, Sanchez would face nine years to life behind bars, Dell said.
“This is really the beginning of the case. I’ve been given very little information from the district attorney’s case and will be filing motions and have experts look at the information,” Dell said outside the courtroom.
Police say that at some point during the violent encounter, Sanchez sexually assaulted Ameer, but whether DNA evidence played a role in supporting the sexually-related charges was not made clear in court.
“He’s confessed to the crime and DNA evidence corroborates it. We have a video showing them together going to where the crime was committed,” Parisi said.
Sanchez had managed to take the green shoelaces from Ameer’s sneakers and bind his hands in front of him and strangle him from behind with the other lace, according to authorities. When that lace snapped, Sanchez allegedly grabbed a cord from the victim’s hooded sweat shirt and finished strangling him in the overgrown field.
Ameer had been given the phone as a reward by his parents for his hard work in school and his dedication to improving his English.
His relatives were not in court, but several people acquainted with Sanchez were present for the brief proceeding. Two of Sanchez’ friends, as they were leaving the courthouse, indicated they had attended the arraignment to express support for him.
DiTullio set a pretrial hearing for July 1.