BEAVER – A boy who was 14 when he fatally shot a woman for telling him to “get a job” when he tried bum a cigarette was sentenced to 14 to 28 years in state prison.
Marcus Velasquez, who is now 15, was sentenced by a county judge who called the sentence “symbolic” given the defendant’s age at the time, the Beaver County Times reported.
Velasquez, of Beaver Falls, pleaded no contest to third-degree murder last month for the December 2012 shooting that killed 22-year-old Kayla Peterson.
Velasquez and two other boys followed Peterson’s boyfriend, William Bailey, home from a store and yelled profanities after he ignored their requests for a cigarette. Velasquez shot Peterson when she confronted the youths as Bailey arrived home.
Peterson had a 2-year-old daughter at the time and died in Bailey’s arms.
“My whole world is different,” Bailey told the judge at sentencing Friday. He said his daughter continually asks when Peterson is coming home, and he’s not sure how to tell the girl what happened once she’s old enough to understand.
Defense attorney Sherri Hurst argued for leniency, saying Velasquez was a “product of his environment.”
The defendant’s mother, Denise Burke, testified to that effect saying she turned to alcohol and drugs after the boy’s father died of a heart attack in front of the family when Velasquez was 7.
“I didn’t do what I was supposed to, to take care of my kids. The streets raised Marcus,” Burke testified, adding, “I’m sorry for Marcus that I failed him and he had nobody.”
Common Pleas Judge Harry Knafelc said he was impressed by a letter he received from Velasquez, in which the boy said he understands the consequences of his actions because he lost his father at a young age.
“He vows to accept punishment and make the most of it,” Knafelc said, before telling the boy, “You have the ability to be someone.”