WILKES-BARRE — For nearly one hour, Brandon Joseph Gambardella listened to family and friends of Anthony Bonney and how the fatal shooting of the teen has affected their lives.
Gambardella, 20, of West Hazleton, mostly kept his head down and leaned in his chair as 11 people, including Bonney’s mother, Faith Saccaetti, testified during his sentencing hearing before Luzerne County Judge Fred A. Pierantoni III on Thursday.
Prosecutors alleged Gambardella set up to meet Bonney, 17, at a park in Freeland to buy cocaine on June 18, 2018.
Gambardella gave $110 to Bonney who in exchange passed off drywall shavings and baking soda, prosecutors said.
When Gambardella realized the substance was fake, he chased after Bonney and fired several rounds from a handgun, striking Bonney in the head.
Bonney died several hours later at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Township.
Gambardella pleaded guilty to third-degree murder as prosecutors withdrew an open count of criminal homicide.
Bonney’s mother testified she will never forget the last moments when she saw her son, who woke her up to say he was going to a friend’s house.
A little while later, Saccaetti said she was awakened with news that a boy had been shot at the Freeland park. After making several phone calls and unable to reach her son, she ran to the park and remembering a police officer looking at the ground when she said her son’s name.
“How could someone take away my favorite person in the world,” Saccaetti said. “He was handsome, loving and kind. He was not only my son, he was my best friend.”
Family and friends also testified about Bonney, saying how he taught his little sister how to ride a bicycle and pushed her on swings, his love of playing football and how he played the video game Mario Kart every day.
“His murder put a big hole in my family,” said Bonney’s sister, Allison Saccaetti.
Gambardella’s attorney, Mark Bufalino, read a letter from his client’s adoptive mother, Kimberly McGrain, saying how Gambardella as an infant was left abandoned by his natural born parents in an apartment. Gambardella was also found to have several drugs in his system at birth, McGrain stated in her letter.
“He did not deserve what I did to him,” Gambardella said when he addressed Pierantoni. “I’m going to live with this for the rest of my life. I made a stupid choice to pull the trigger on a 17-year-old kid. I’m terribly sorry. There is nothing I can say.”
Pierantoni accepted the agreed-upon sentence reached with Deputy Assistant District Attorney Chester F. Dudick and Assistant District Attorney Drew McLaughlin, sending Gambardella to state prison for 15 to 40 years.
In a related case, Felicia Marie Catrone, 20, of Cleveland Street, Hazleton, recently pleaded guilty to perjury and tampering with evidence connected to hiding the .25-caliber handgun Gambardella used in the fatal shooting.
Catrone buried the handgun and ammunition behind her home.
Investigators uncovered the firearm and ammunition on May 14, 2019.
Catrone drove the getaway vehicle after the fatal shooting and gave false testimony during a court proceeding related to Gambardella.
Catrone is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 24.