In 1997, my son was 17 years old. We lived in the same community in Montgomery County, Maryland as Alfred Tello Jr., a 19 year old, whose “friends” decided that they would kill him. Not only was this the worst nightmare of any mother, family or friend, it was more than the horrid act that was inflicted on the body of the dead youth. It was about politics
The body of Alfred Tello Jr., was discovered in an empty house decomposing in a trash bag. The real estate agents who happened to be prepping the house on Breezy Lane, Wheaton Maryland for showing, discovered what would become the slaughtered body parts of a very demonic tragedy. The charred remains of a torso of a body with limbs severed became the only memories of a mother and a family who lost a son to murder by friendship. I, along with every mother in our community anguished and felt that it could have been any of our sons, that this could have happened to.
If there were passions aroused in the legal and political communities, if the Israeli and US court systems were wrangling about the precedence of law, there was no national outcry, there were no public marches, there was no activism, there were no petitions and there was no comment from the President of the United States to sympathize with the grief that Alfred Tello Jr’s mother bore.
The strain between US and Israeli ties was the thin line of diplomatic relations that was the primary negotiation in the murder of Alfred Tello Jr. In its July 06, 1999 Wire Report, The Los Angelos Times
wrote about the United States, Foreign Relations, Israel position on the killing. The killer Samuel Sheinbein entered a plea of innocence, though admitting that he helped dismember and burn the body of his classmate, Alfred Tello, Jr. with the help of another friend Aaron Needle. Aaron Needle killed himself while locked up in prison awaiting trial.
“The grisly 1997 killing in Maryland of Alfred Tello Jr. has pitted the Israeli justice system against members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Atty. Gen. Janet Reno, who are angry at Israel for refusing to extradite Samuel Sheinbein. The plea means Sheinbein will face a full trial in Israel, where he fled a few days after Tello’s mutilated, dismembered body was found. Israel’s Supreme Court has ruled that Sheinbein technically is an Israeli citizen and therefore could not be extradited. His father was born in Israel.”
The circumstances and the proximity of this murder were the nightmare and devastation that no mother could fathom, sanction nor ratify. As a single mother too, of a 17 year old adolescent son, whose friends included all of the classmates of the murdered victim Alfred Tello Jr, his murderers, Aaron Needle and Samuel Sheinbein, the fear and the acrimony were extreme.
In the cloister of a Montgomery County community where friends were multi-cultural and multi-racial and multi-ethnic, where single parent mothers were dealing with sons in crisis, and where the appeal of truancy among rogue adolescent peers were the unacceptable norm, the tragic death of Alfred Tello Jr. sent shivers and ferocious panic throughout the whole community.
Alfred Tello Jr’s, own mother was the greatest victim of the worst of injustices, than the tragic unfolding of her son’s horrendous killing.
After evidence was uncovered at Sheibein’s home; evidence of a recent fire, an empty box for a Makita power saw, rubber gloves, propane cylinders and a Home Depot bag with a receipt indicating that the items were purchased several days earlier, Sol Sheinbein, the accused killer’s father, got his son out of the country. Mr. Sheinbein chose to use the Israeli citizenship of convenience to afford his son Samuel Sheinbein protection from US law.
Sol Sheinbein, who was born in Israel, but had left with his family in the early 1950s, did not want his son to face murder charges in Montgomery County, Maryland. In efforts by then State Attorney, Douglas Gansler, of Montgomery County Maryland, to have Samuel Sheinbein return to Maryland for the murder trial of Alfred Tello, Jr, a 1978 Israeli extradition ban was enforced.
Under the protection of an Israeli law, that stated that “handing over a Jew to Non Jews for trial would be unconscionable” based on the plight of Holocaust victims, Samuel Sheinbein was protected by the law of Israel, and against the law of the United States.
on Sunday, February 23, 2014, In the article by the Washington Post, Crime Section the final episode of justice for Alfred Tello, Jr was enacted. Seventeen years after fleeing the United States under the protection of Israeli citizenship, Samuel Sheinbein was killed by Israeli Counter Terrorism guards in his Israeli prison after a shoot out, where he shot and injured three guards.
Though I did not know Alfred Tello Jr.’s mother, I know that I feel a kinetic bond with her tragic loss. For all the nights of anguish and fear, of sorrow and despair, for the irreplaceable agony of living with the memories, in a peculiar and sinister comfort, I am truly and unabashedly unapologetic. I feel no remorse about the death of Samuel Sheinbein.
With Alfred Tello Jr.’s mother and family, mothers like her, and like me, in Samuel Sheinbein’s final exit, be it hereby attested:
Justice is Served.