Betcha forgot about this sicko murderer didn't you? The last time I saw this creep, he was walking around in civilian clothes, no handcuffs, drinking a coca-cola in an Israeli social club style prison for Jews. And, they have the nerve to be pissed-off with O.J. At least O.J. didn't escape to a foreign county. If you're not familiar with the case, read on...
August 24, 1999
ROCKVILLE, Maryland (CNN) -- In a surprising outcome to a case that stretched from Maryland to the Middle East, Samuel Sheinbein -- the U.S. teen-ager who fled to Israel after a gruesome killing two years ago -- has agreed to plead guilty to first-degree murder, Maryland authorities announced Tuesday.
The plea agreement reached in the Israeli judicial system will allow Sheinbein weekend furloughs in four years and parole in 14 years, said displeased Maryland prosecutors.
"It is our view that it is an insult to justice that Mr. Sheinbein will be free to walk the streets of Israel under the most likely scenario when he is 33 years of age," said Douglas Gansler, the Montgomery County, Maryland, state's attorney, when he announced the plea bargain on Tuesday.
Sheinbein, 19, will plead guilty to first-degree murder in a Tel Aviv court on September 2. He has agreed to a sentence of 24 years to be served in an Israeli prison.
He will be eligible for parole after two-thirds of the sentence has been served. Sheinbein has already spent two years behind bars awaiting trial. With that time taken into consideration, he would be eligible for parole in 14 years if the plea agreement is approved by an Israeli judge.
In four years, after serving one-quarter of his sentence, Sheinbein will be eligible for weekend furloughs under the Israeli court system.
Sister: Sheinbein always seemed disturbed
The suspect's older sister, Nathalie Sheinbein, voiced relief at her brother's sentence. She acknowledged that it probably sounded lenient to those used to the U.S. justice system.
"But he will serve his time. He's not going to be out walking free," Nathalie Sheinbein told CNN.
"Hopefully he will get some of the help that he needs while he's in there," she said.
Her brother always seemed disturbed, exhibiting signs of obsessive-compulsive behavior and anorexia, she said.
"Not your typical, normal young boy things -- that are all signs of bigger things to come," she said. The family is now hearing about more serious signs from his friends, "signs of schizophrenic behavior at school," she said.
Israel official: Offender has rights, too
A member of Sheinbein's defense team in Israel told CNN they were angry that Montgomery County officials revealed the plea before it went to court.
Gansler announced the plea bargain on Tuesday
Maryland authorities complained that they were not consulted about the plea bargain and were faxed a notice of it only Monday night.
Sheinbein had been the subject of a 17-month extradition battle between the United States and Israeli authorities.
Gansler quoted the murder victim's family as saying: "Justice has not been served."
"The Sheinbeins manipulated the justice system in the U.S. and in Israel," the family said, according to Gansler. "There was not closure, because he will serve a lighter sentence in Israel than in the U.S."
Gansler said he "was glad to have certainty" because Sheinbein "could have been acquitted in Israel."
A senior official in Israel's justice ministry tells CNN that the plea agreement is a "very good deal" for the prosecution, because the presumption in Israel is that juveniles serve 16-18 years for murder, not the 24 years to which Sheinbein will be sentenced.
In addition, the official said, weekend furloughs depend on the behavior of the person in prison and are up to the Israeli prison authority. The official said, "This is our system. We believe a person who made offense has rights, too."
Gansler called Israeli prisons "much more country club-ish than U.S. prisons."
Prosecutor: Motive was a 'practice murder '
Sheinbein, of Aspen Hill, Maryland, fled to Israel in 1997, soon after the dismembered body of his friend Alfredo Tello was found.
The Maryland prosecution claims that Sheinbein and an accomplice, Aaron Needle, picked Tello up from work in Silver Spring, Maryland, on September 17, 1997, and decided to kill him.
They allegedly strangled him with a rope, struck him on the head with a blunt object and slashed him. Prosecutors said there was "extended torture."
Two days later, the prosecution said, the two suspects dismembered the victim, burned his body and dumped his remains in a vacant house.
"This was actually what has been called a 'thrill kill' -- they killed Alfredo Tello for the mere pleasure of it," Gansler said.
"They actually had planned on killing another acquaintance of Mr. Sheinbein and Mr. Needle down the road, and this was basically a practice murder," the prosecutor said.
Maryland authorities believe Tello was selected because he had in some way "disrespected" Needle's girlfriend.
'Recipe' to commit murder
Israel's Supreme Court ruled in February that Sheinbein, who was born and raised in the United States, was an Israeli citizen -- because Sheinbein's father, Sol, holds an Israeli passport -- and could not be extradited.
Trial proceedings on the murder change began in May; soon after the Israeli defense team was granted more time to gather evidence from Maryland authorities.
Samuel Sheinbein had admitted to the dismemberment and burning of the victim. But he claimed Needle was the killer. Needle hanged himself shortly before his own trial was to begin in Maryland.
Israeli prosecutors were set to begin presenting evidence in the courtroom in September. Gansler said it was the evidence that prompted Sheinbein finally to admit he committed the killing and seek a plea agreement.
"We had a mountain of evidence, all of which would have been compelling," Gansler said. That included DNA, eyewitness accounts, and a "recipe" to commit murder written by Sheinbein, the prosecutor added.
No double jeopardy
Once Sheinbein is freed from an Israeli prison, he could still be arrested and charged with first-degree murder if he tried to enter the United States or any country that belongs to the Interpol international police organization, Gansler said.
"There's no double jeopardy," he said.
Sheinbein's father, who is living in Israel, faces obstruction of justice and hindering investigation charges in Montgomery County, Gansler said.