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A KILLER SO YOUNG BOY, 15, GETS 9 YEARS TO LIFE

Sean Smith resembled a schoolboy attending a civics class field trip to State Supreme Court on Friday.

But the 15-year-old dressed in a white shirt and black tie is a killer. And he and his other accomplice had to listen as the mother of their victim, good Samaritan Georgia Dianne Woods, told of her family's grief.

"This terrible tragedy has left our hearts broken, heavy burdened and full of grief . . . there is no end to our grief," Amelia Terry said. "We are so deeply hurt by having lost our dear loved one to such an unnecessary violent act, which should not have happened.

"I know the parents of the two young men are very upset concerning the prison sentence of their children, but they do have a second chance to be with their child . . . we don't have that second chance," said Terry, weeping as she addressed State Supreme Court Justice Mario J. Rossetti.

When it came Smith's turn to speak, he turned briefly to Woods' family and apologized. "I made a big mistake taking someone's life. I shouldn't have done it. I've learned in detention to work on my anger. I've learned to walk away from fights," the teen said.

Smith was sentenced to nine years to life in prison, the maximum allowable jail term for the juvenile, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and first-degree robbery.

Benjamin Sweetwine, 17, an unarmed accomplice in the Nov. 10 robbery that led to the fatal shooting, received a nine-year prison sentence for his guilty plea to first-degree robbery.

Sterling, Woods' younger brother, sat in the spectators' section of the courtroom and whispered the word "chameleon" in reacting to Smith's statement, later explaining that he thought the teenager was saying words that would please the court.

Sweetwine offered one word to the family: "Sorry."

Robert Murphy, Smith's attorney, made an impassioned plea to the judge for mercy.

"Society put the gun in the hand of this young man . . . a child in the eyes of the law," Murphy said, adding that society's solution now is to place Smith "out of sight" in prison.

"One day, he'll hit his home again, the streets, and Lord help us if he takes the education he gets from the criminals in jail," Murphy said.

Rossetti acknowledged that society, to some extent, is to blame because there are not enough adults and parents providing children with unconditional love, support and guidance.

"We've had so many cases of youngsters robbing jackets and this escalated into death because Woods tried to stop it," Rossetti said. "We should have more citizens who try to correct what's happening in society."

Woods, 40, had witnessed Smith and Sweetwine robbing jewelry and a jacket from Mario Shepard at about 5 p.m. Nov. 10 at Brinkman Avenue and Doat Street. She pulled Shepard into her van and pursued the robbers.

When she confronted Smith, he shot her in the head with a .38-caliber handgun.

The sentences were not enough for Woods' sister, Angela Crawley.

"After nine years, they're going to be free to be with their loved ones. They'll get to see them on birthdays and holidays. We only have photographs to look at," Crawley said.

Connie Woods, the 19-year-old daughter of the dead woman, doesn't even have the comfort of photographs.

Blind, she depends on memories and conversations with her older brother to remember her mother, who was known for her random acts of kindness to strangers.

"My mother is gone and there is no way this is going to bring her back," the daughter said of the sentencings.

Since the murder, Antone Martin, Connie's 26-year-old brother, has moved into the home she had shared with her mother.

"I've become Connie's mother, brother and father, all in one, running the household," said Martin, who works as a truck driver. "We get together and talk about mom and the fact that she isn't here. That's the worst of it."

Like the Woods' relatives, Buffalo Homicide Detectives James Giardina and Anthony Scinta were upset over the length of the prison sentences.

"It's a travesty," Scinta said.

"So often murders involve drug dealers killing other drug dealers, but this was a truly innocent person who was killed, and it should not have happened," said Giardina, who investigated the case with Scinta.

Rossetti also sentenced Terrell Hale to 3 1/3 years in prison for the Dec. 3 shooting of Mario Shepard, the man whom Woods helped after Smith and Sweetwine robbed him of his jewelry and leather coat.

Hale, 18, initially was charged with first-degree attempted murder for shooting Shepard, the only eyewitness to the killing of the 40-year-old Woods.

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