A man who killed a 12-year-old East Camden boy in a dispute over a cheap radio was sentenced to life in prison yesterday.
Jessie Sepulveda, 32, of Camden, was convicted in Superior Court in April of killing Pedro Molina, whose death sparked an anti-crime protest.
While high on ecstasy, Sepulveda fired 10 rounds at Molina after a companion took a radio from the boy, according to trial testimony. Molina was hit twice as he retreated into his home.
No clear motive was established, and Molina's mother said she had never seen Sepulveda before the shooting on the night of Oct. 2, 2004.
Sepulveda and Molina's parents declined to speak before sentencing, which was largely a formality and carried little of the tension of normal sentencings.
Prosecutors had planned to seek the death penalty against Sepulveda, but the Legislature abolished capital punishment last year. In its place, lawmakers created a provision that asks jurors to find aggravating factors that would trigger an automatic life sentence without parole. The jurors found one of those factors in the Molina case - the victim was younger than 14.
The prosecutor and defense attorney said little before Judge Thomas Brown issued his ruling.
"Obviously, the result after the jury trial is preordained," said Assistant Prosecutor Greg Smith. "Because of that, I see no need to go into great detail."
Sepulveda's attorney, Jaime Kaigh, said his client "wanted me to thank the court for your attempt to give him a fair trial."
Earlier, Kaigh had said this could be the first former death penalty case to have employed the provision for life without parole.
Brown offered no commentary other than to note that Molina was "unarmed and defenseless," and that his death was "brutal and senseless."