WILKES-BARRE – Angelina DeAbreu said Monday she is not the monster she is portrayed as being in media reports.
Though she was charged with covering up the deadly shooting of a 14-year-old boy, she is a good wife and mother of three, her family testified Monday.
She made a rash decision under a tremendous amount of stress on behalf of her son, her attorney said.
DeAbreu, 31, of Stroudsburg, was sentenced to six to 12 months in county prison, as well as one year probation, on charges of tampering with evidence and two counts of hindering apprehension.
DeAbreu's son, Elijah Yusuff, 14, was charged in juvenile court with shooting and killing his friend Tyler Winstead, 14, inside DeAbreu's Hill Street, Wilkes-Barre home in April 2012.
Prosecutors say DeAbreu cleaned up blood stains, removed a gun and deleted cell phone material.
“(DeAbreu) deserved more than probation,” District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis said Monday after hearing DeAbreu's sentence.
Judge: Jail time appropriate
DeAbreu faced a minimum sentence of probation, but instead received the maximum sentence on each charge after Judge David Lupas said incarceration was appropriate because of the nature of DeAbreu's crimes.
Salavantis said DeAbreu's sentence is a message to the public: “Do the right thing. Concealing evidence is not the right thing to do to protect your children.”
None of Winstead's family was in the courtroom for DeAbreu's sentencing Monday morning, but his grandfather and guardian, Willie Golden, spoke briefly after the sentencing at his home on Hill Street.
“I was very surprised (she got jail time),” Golden said, noting he didn't have that much to say other than he is glad DeAbreu's case is finally over. “My family has been through a lot.”
DeAbreu's attorneys, Tom Marsilio and Larry Kansky, said they were disappointed with Lupas' sentence, though they respected his decision and they would immediately look into filing an appeal.
“I'm in a state of shock,” Marsilio said, adding that he believed probation was an appropriate sentence. She accepted responsibility by pleading guilty, Marsilio said, and two families have been devastated.
“A mother has been taken away from her children for six to 12 months,” Marsilio said. “This is a serious blow to the DeAbreu … family.”
Kansky said he believed emotions played a role in DeAbreu's sentencing after the case suffered “media sensationalism.”
“Any other defendant facing misdemeanors (with no prior record) would get a probationary sentence,” Kansky said.
DeAbreu pleaded guilty to the three charges – all misdemeanors - in May in the middle of her trial on four charges, which included a corruption of minors charge.
Before the defense presented their case, Lupas dropped the corruption of minors charge, the most serious, leading prosecutors to offer a guilty plea agreement.
Winstead's case began after Yusuff told investigators his friend was killed in a drive-by shooting.
It wasn't until weeks later police learned the real story – that the teen boys had been playing with a handgun, when Yusuff pulled the trigger.
Yusuff testified at his mother's trial he panicked and dragged Winstead's body outside where he fabricated the story about the drive-by.
It wasn't until much later he told his mother the real story, he testified.
Teen in juvenile facility
During DeAbreu's trial, it was revealed Yusuff was charged with involuntary manslaughter in Winstead's death and is residing at a juvenile facility in Orefield, Pa. The maximum allowable disposition in juvenile court is placement at a facility until the age of 21. It is unknown if that is what Yusuff received.
DeAbreu said Monday she believed her son's story about the drive-by shooting, and she said she felt horrible when the truth finally did come out.
“I regret the decision I made,” DeAbreu said, noting it was likely hard for her son to tell her the truth because Winstead was his friend.
She blamed the shooting on violent military video games and curious teenage boys. DeAbreu and her family members broke out in tears as Lupas handed down her sentencing Monday.
Shortly after learning her sentence, DeAbreu's husband, Marcellus DeAbreu, pleaded for leniency and shouted at prosecutors and investigators as they left the courtroom.
Left in shackles, handcuffs
DeAbreu said little as she left the Luzerne County Courthouse in handcuffs and shackles, only noting that Lupas “did what he had to do.”
Lupas said he was handing down the maximum sentence because a 14-year-old died and because of the serious circumstances surrounding Winstead's death.
“The actions of (DeAbreu) resulted in the utilization of time and resources … that prolonged the agony of the Tyler Winstead family,” Lupas said, noting he hopes DeAbreu's actions act as a deterrent for those who might take a similar path.