Alonte Works was just 15 years old when he ambushed a man in an East Side parking lot and shot him to death.
On Monday, the boy who is now 16 learned he would spend 10 years to life in prison for the slaying.
Looking at the young teen, Erie County Judge Kenneth F. Case shook his head slightly.
“Honestly, it’s hard for me to believe that I’m about to sentence someone who was 15 years old at the time this happened. I can’t fathom how that can be the case,” the judge said.
Works is one of only 10 people age 15 or younger to be charged with murder locally in the last 10 years.
Before he was sentenced, Works apologized to the family of the victim, Jonathan Jones, 29, and to his own family for the suffering he caused them.
“I’m sorry ... I know how painful it is to lose somebody you love,” he said.
Works was 7 years old when his father died; a respected uncle died a short time later, and his mother was disabled by a stroke. He spent his adolescence in and out of various schools and treatment programs after threatening teachers and bringing a knife to school.
Case acknowledged that Works had accepted responsibility for his actions, which spared Jones’s family from the ordeal of a trial, and that the youth had expressed remorse.
“There may have been some peer pressure involved (behind the crime),” Case said, “and you had some difficulties in your life. But nothing – nothing – can justify your actions, taking a life. This is a murder and Jonathan Jones is no longer with us, and his family must live the rest of their lives without him.”
Acting District Attorney Michael J. Flaherty Jr. said after the sentencing that Works and Jones knew one another and that the investigators believe the shooting may have been a response to a physical altercation the two had earlier. Flaherty said both Works and Jones were frequent customers of the 50/50 Convenience Store at 441 Fillmore Ave., and that Works planned the killing, taking a long gun to the store parking lot on Oct. 22 and waiting for Jones.
Security cameras in the area captured the shooting, which occurred at about 8:15 that night. Works is seen firing once and trying to shoot again.
Works was arrested shortly after Jones was killed, with the investigation handled by Buffalo Police Lt. Brian Stroebel and Detectives Patricia Wrest and Brendan Kiefer.
The teen, who lived on Reed Street, pleaded guilty in June to second-degree murder. Because of his age at the time of the crime, the maximum sentence he could have received was 15 years to life in prison. Judge Case, in accepting the plea, agreed to cap the sentence at 10 years to life.
Jones’ girlfriend and his sister were in court for the sentencing. Speaking on their behalf, prosecutor Gary W. Hackbush described the crime as a terrible and violent act with tragic results.
“I’m not sure if the court can tell from the paperwork (about the crime) the depth of the consequences,” Hackbush told the judge. “A friend was taken. A father was taken. A family no longer has their loved one.”
Defense attorney John Ange followed by saying, “Let me assure you Alonte does understand the depth of the consequences. He regretted his actions almost immediately. He is consumed by remorse about it and he is determined, if the court allows, to make a better life for himself.”