Friends and relatives of two teens slain at 12th and Ritner Streets in 2017 might have used the convicted killer’s sentencing hearing Monday morning to close a chapter in a criminal case that attracted citywide attention and led to ongoing tensions in South Philadelphia.

But it quickly became apparent inside Courtroom 306 at the Stout Center for Criminal Justice that emotions surrounding the fatal shootings of Salvatore DiNubile and Caleer Miller remained raw — and their killer, Brandon Olivieri, added to the tension by speaking about the case for the first time and declaring that he was innocent.

“I should not be the one sitting here today,” Olivieri said. He did not elaborate, but his North Philadelphia lawyer, Todd Mosser, vowed to appeal.

The drama unfolded as Common Pleas Court Judge Barbara A. McDermott sentenced Olivieri to 37 years to life in prison in the crimes. And it was just one episode in a day that began with conflict emblematic of the discord that has dogged the case.

Early in the morning, before the boys’ friends and relatives tearfully delivered victim-impact statements, DiNubile’s father and others in the audience had to be temporarily removed from the courtroom after a shouting match erupted. Supporters of the DiNubiles called Olivieri’s parents “crumbs” who had “raised a drug-dealing murderer,” while the Olivieris pleaded with sheriffs to take action on what they called “terroristic threats” against them.

Once the hearing got underway, testimony by Olivieri and his parents elicited groans or barbs from the slain teens’ supporters.

Brandon Olivieri
Philadelphia Police Department
Brandon Olivieri

McDermott, in imposing a sentence two years above the mandatory minimum, told Olivieri: “This is an example of what happens when you have a gun.” Olivieri did not receive the automatic life sentence typically imposed for the crimes because he committed them as a juvenile.

Miller’s mother, Aishah George, said afterward that she did not believe Olivieri’s claim of innocence, and that she “never” wants him to be released from prison. “Caleer can’t come back,” she said.

DiNubile’s father, also named Salvatore, was harsher in his reaction, saying of Olivieri: “I hope he dies” in prison, and “I want him to rot.”

Aishah George, mother of fatal shooting victim Caleer Miller, is approached by reporters outside the Criminal Justice Center on Monday, July 22, 2019, after the sentencing of her son's killer, Brandon Olivieri.
MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
Aishah George, mother of fatal shooting victim Caleer Miller, is approached by reporters outside the Criminal Justice Center on Monday, July 22, 2019, after the sentencing of her son's killer, Brandon Olivieri.

The hearing was the most recent example of how the killing has resulted in lingering fallout, particularly between friends and relatives of DiNubile and Olivieri.

The teens were students at different schools — DiNubile went to St. Joseph’s Preparatory School, Miller attended Mastery Charter School’s Thomas campus, and Olivieri went to Neumann Goretti High School — but their social circles at least loosely overlapped.

Olivieri was found guilty in May of shooting DiNubile on Oct. 24, 2017, after wandering the streets of South Philadelphia with Miller and other friends looking for a fight.

Prosecutors Matt Krouse and David Osborne said that when Olivieri encountered DiNubile at 12th and Ritner, near DiNubile family’s home, Olivieri pulled a gun because of a lingering feud fueled by Instagram. The two teens struggled over the weapon and three shots were fired, one striking DiNubile and one striking Miller by mistake.

A jury voted to convict Olivieri of first-degree murder for killing DiNubile and third-degree murder for killing Miller, as well as several related weapons counts.

When the proceedings Monday got underway, 14 people delivered victim impact statements remembering the slain teens.

Miller worked to help support his mother, loved his twin brothers, and was passionate about basketball, his relatives said. His father, Caleer Sr., said that the younger Miller was his best friend and that “I was so excited to see my son grow into a young adult.”

DiNubile, meanwhile, was described as a larger-than-life presence who loved hockey and had a sprawling and loyal circle of friends. He was called “Tankie,” his friends and relatives said, and his death left a hole in their lives and in South Philadelphia.

“Our house without him is so quiet,” said his sister, Ciarra Bianculli. “Our house is now a place where grief lives.”

Olivieri’s parents also testified before he was sentenced, telling McDermott that he was a “good kid” who earned his high school diploma after being jailed.

They also said they had difficulty finding character witnesses willing to speak Monday due to fear. Their South Philadelphia home was riddled with bullets days after the shooting — a crime that has not been solved — and they said they later received a threatening letter in the mail. The incidents ultimately spurred them to move out of their home.

The Olivieris left the courthouse without commenting. Mosser said simply: “This case is not over.”

Osborne said afterward that prosecutors were “satisfied with the sentence” and believe it was fair.

McDermott, for her part, said she was moved by the hundreds of pages of testimony espousing the virtues of Miller and DiNubile. And she told Olivieri that she believed his parents had given him every opportunity to succeed.

“In spite of everyone’s best efforts, we’re here,” the judge said. “I’m not sure you have grasped, at this point, what you’ve done.”