YORK — Family members of murder victim Anthony Wasilewski, a Wyoming Valley West graduate, expressed gratitude, grief and relief Thursday after hearing jurors found Wasilewski’s killer guilty of first-degree murder.
“There are no winners in this case,” said the victim’s grandfather, Tom Wasilewski of Shavertown. “We’re just grateful some sense of justice has prevailed.”
Nineteen-year-old Tony Wasilewski was raised in Kingston by his father, Scott Wasilewski of Kingston and moved to York to be closer to his girlfriend, according to his family.
“He had a beautiful heart,” Tom Wasilewski said.
Jurors took an hour and 40 minutes to convict Jacquez Davon Brown, 17, of York City, of first-degree murder just before noon Thursday.
Brown was 15 years old when he gunned down Wasilewski in front of the victim’s home in the 300 block of East Princess Street in York City about 2:30 p.m. July 20, 2011.
York City Police have said Brown robbed Wasilewski of a cell phone earlier in the day, and that Wasilewski confronted Brown after spotting the teen hanging out on a porch with 10 to 15 other youths.
The two argued, then struggled, and Wasilewski put Brown in a headlock, trial testimony revealed.
Brown broke away and shot Wasilewski repeatedly. He fled through a breezeway and ran to the 300 block of East Philadelphia Street, police have said.
There, he took a hostage at gunpoint and forced the young man into a home in the block, police said. The hostage got away and officers surrounded the building and captured Brown on the roof, police said.
Wasilewski’s phone was found on the roof, hidden under a folding chair. The gun was found in the same building about two months later, hidden under a piece of furniture, according to trial testimony.
The jury was not told about the alleged hostage-taking, and Brown was never charged.
Chief deputy prosecutor David Maisch said he has not yet decided what sentence he will ask presiding Common Pleas Judge Richard K. Renn to impose.
In Pennsylvania, those convicted of first- and second-degree murder receive automatic life sentences. But when the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that automatic life sentences are unconstitutional for minors charged as adults, Pennsylvania’s legislature revised the penalties.
Under the new sentencing law, Brown faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 35 years to life, Maisch said, although the judge could sentence him to more than that, up to and including life without parole.
That’s because life sentences for juvenile murderers are only unconstitutional when they are automatically imposed, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled.
Renn asked Maisch to research the issue and ensure the law requires Brown to be sentenced under the new guidelines.
Brown remains in York County Prison without bail, awaiting sentencing, which is set for 2 p.m. Jan. 27.
Defense attorney Gary Kelley declined comment after the verdict.
Tom Wasilewski said his grandson, a 2010 graduate of Wyoming Valley West High School, loved going to rock concerts and dressing sharply. As a boy, he played Little League.
“He was an excellent athlete,” his grandfather said.
Tony Wasilewski’s father adopted him when he was 6 years old, according to the victim’s great-aunt, Joan Treon of Wrightsville.
She said coping with the teen’s death had been very hard — “more difficult than I can tell you.”
At the time of his death, former classmates of Wasilewski described him as a caring, outgoing person who had a knack for bringing a smile to anyone’s face, no matter how bad their day was going. They said he was outgoing, smart, funny, and a talented athlete, particularly in baseball and soccer.
Both Treon and Tom Wasilewski thanked police and prosecutors, as well as everyone who has offered them support.
Treon called the sentence justice.
“However, it’s not going to bring Tony back,” she said.
Tom Wasilewski said the family is devastated, especially his son.
“Scott couldn’t have been a more wonderful father,” he said. “The kid was his whole life.”