Alex Sierra’s mother remembered his promise and potential today in an emotionally-charged impact statement delivered as the slain teen’s killer was sentenced to life in prison, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said.
A Suffolk Superior Court jury on July 25 convicted Ricardo Arias, 19, of first-degree murder and unlawful possession of a firearm for shooting Sierra, 18, dead near the intersection of West Brookline and Tremont streets on the evening of Sept. 3, 2011.
“My proudest moment as a mother has been collecting certificates of achievement, watching Alex get promoted to the fourth grade shortly after beginning third grade, and, as a teen, being a part of two MIT enrichment programs for talented students,” she said. “We all knew Alex was truly talented, with plans to move far beyond a college education. According to one of his MIT program professors, ‘Alex represented the best of what kids can achieve.’”
“It was a blessing for me to see just how much time he had put into picking out gifts that fit each of our needs and to write thoughtful ‘I love you’ letters,” she said. “Sadly, the Christmas season is no longer what it used to be.”
Assistant District Attorney Amy Galatis recommended that Arias, formerly of Roslindale, be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for Sierra’s murder, plus an additional five years for unlawful possession of the firearm he used in the slaying. In recommending the consecutive sentence, Galatis said that at the time of Sierra’s murder, Arias was 17 years old and in the custody of the Department of Youth Services following a delinquency adjudication for unlawfully possessing a loaded firearm on an earlier date.
Under Massachusetts law, the crime of first-degree murder carries a statutory punishment of life in prison without the possibility of parole. A 2012 US Supreme Court decision, however, found that automatic life without parole for defendants under 18 at the time of the crime is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts is expected to reconcile state law with the federal decision later this year.
“I have the authority to sentence Mr. Arias to life in prison,” Suffolk Superior Court Judge Linda Giles said at today’s hearing. “That is the sentence. The issue of his parole eligibility will be determined by the Supreme Judicial Court.”
Giles also sentenced Arias to an additional term of three to five years in prison on the gun conviction, to run from and after his life term on the murder conviction.
“There was no mitigation in this case,” Conley said. “There is not one piece of information about this defendant or the craven murder he committed that warrants parole eligibility. We stand by our recommendation. Boston is a poorer place with Alex Sierra gone, and the person who took him from us should serve out the entirety of this sentence.”
During the two-week trial, Galatis presented evidence and testimony to prove that Arias shot Sierra dead as part of a long-running gang rivalry between Arias’ group, which was associated with Mission Hill, and another group affiliated with the Villa Victoria housing development.
Sierra was not involved with either group or their feud.
Prosecutors said that on the day of Sierra’s murder, Arias was on a one-day pass from the custody of the Department of Youth Services, during which time he was supposed to be at Fenway Park watching a Red Sox game. Instead, Arias left the ballpark and went with Antonio Saez, 19, to Villa Victoria housing development in the South End.
Witnesses testified that Arias approached several young men and asked if they were “from the Villa.” The last person he approached was Sierra, who said he was from the development. Arias pulled out a gun and fired multiple shots at Sierra, who staggered into a barbershop where he collapsed. He died of his injuries at Boston Medical Center.
A witness saw Arias and Saez running from the scene and was able to provide a partial license plate number of the vehicle the two entered. That vehicle was spotted by police minutes later in the area of Mission Hill. Officers saw both Arias and Saez run from the vehicle and watched Saez toss an item into a dumpster on Prentiss Street. That item was later discovered to be a handgun that proved to be a ballistic match to shell casings found at the scene of Sierra’s murder.
Though Saez was also a juvenile at the time of the murder, Conley’s office indicted him as a youthful offender, opening his case up to the public and exposing him to the same penalties as an adult. He pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm and received almost two years in a house of correction.