Israel cuts deal with teen in killing

Montgomery youth who fled U.S. faces 24-year sentence

August 25, 1999|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

ROCKVILLE -- Samuel Sheinbein will admit to a three-judge panel in Israel next month that he killed a teen-age acquaintance and burned and dismembered the body, Montgomery County's top prosecutor said yesterday.

A plea agreement between Israeli prosecutors and Sheinbein's lawyers -- subject to judicial approval -- means he could be released on weekend furloughs within four years and paroled in 14 years.

"It is an absolute outrage, an insult to justice," State's Attorney Douglas Gansler said. "He will be a free man by the time he reaches 33 years of age."

Under the terms of the agreement, Sheinbein, 19, will be sentenced in Tel Aviv on Sept. 2 to 24 years in prison. He will get credit for the two years he has spent in an Israeli jail.

Gansler said he was not consulted and learned of the agreement Monday night when he received a fax from the Israeli government.

"While we are happy to have a conviction in this case the bottom line remains unacceptable," said Gansler, who said he would have asked for life without parole if Sheinbein had been convicted here.

An official at the Israeli Embassy in Washington scoffed at the notion that Sheinbein would have an easier time in a prison overseas.

"That's definitely not true," said Mark Regev, a spokesman. "They're not country clubs."

The Israeli Justice Ministry defended the length of the sentence, noting that under Israeli law juveniles convicted of first-degree murder receive an average sentence of 16 years.

Sheinbein fled to Israel days after Alfredo Tello Jr.'s limbless body was found Sept. 19, 1997, stuffed in black plastic garbage bags inside a vacant house in the Aspen Hill section of Silver Spring. Authorities believe Tello was killed Sept. 16.

Sheinbein's suspected accomplice, Aaron Needle, turned himself in to police Sept. 24.

Gansler said that while the motive for the crime was never spelled out, Tello, 19, was most likely the victim of a "thrill kill."

"They wanted to see how it felt," he said. "This was basically a practice murder for killing another acquaintance down the road."

Montgomery County officials, members of Congress and the U.S. Justice Department fought for 1 1/2 years to extradite Sheinbein, who claimed Israeli citizenship through his father, Shlomo. Israeli law at that time prohibited the extradition of its citizens.

A lower court ruled that while Sheinbein was an Israeli citizen, he had not maintained sufficient ties to warrant protection from extradition.

The Supreme Court, on a 3-2 vote, reversed the decision, ensuring Sheinbein would not be tried in the United States.

At a news conference yesterday, Gansler displayed an enlargement of a "recipe for murder" that he said was written by Sheinbein and a second note written by Needle. Both notes were found in the glove box of Sheinbein's car.

The first note lists a series of items that prosecutors say were used in the crime: a hobby knife, 20-gauge shotgun, goggles, propane tank, plastic garbage bags, circular saw, rain suits, metal restraints and Lysol disinfectant.

Most of the items, and a handful of sales receipts, were found at Sheinbein's home.

It also contained a checklist for altering a car, prosecutors believe for a second killing: "disconnect power windows and door locks disconnect trunk release test all lights wash car inside and out."

The second note, signed by both young men and notarized on Sept. 20, 1997, is part confessional, part last will and testament. Some words were scribbled out after it was notarized.

"I, Aaron Needle [six words deleted] to the Breeze Hill incident in my golden 1989 Honda Accord SE EMV 104 Maryland tag. Please find my car and return it to Roslyn Needle. It is located at a parking lot in Layhill Plaza opposite Fitness World. [Four words deleted] and placed it in the garage of 10104 or 109 Breeze Hill Lane Silver Spring MD 20806. I ditched the car [several words deleted]. I had to get rid of it."

Deputy State's Attorney John McCarthy said laboratory technicians determined the four deleted words were "We burned the body."

Needle, 17, hanged himself in his jail cell in April 1998, a day before his trial on first-degree murder charges was to begin.

Tello's family did not attend the news conference, but Gansler described them as upset because they felt that Sheinbein had manipulated the justice system.

Gansler said Jorge Tello, Alfredo's uncle, would like to attend the sentencing in Tel Aviv, if the Israeli government will pay his way. Gansler doubted any member of his staff would be present when Sheinbein admits guilt.

"We feel we are very well versed in the facts," Gansler said. "They don't need our participation."

He said that if Sheinbein attempts to return to the United States or visits a country that has an extradition treaty with this country, "He will be arrested and tried for murder in this country. There is no double jeopardy."

Joshua Brilliant of The Sun's Jerusalem bureau also contributed to this article.

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