WILKES-BARRE – After four days in court and dismissal Thursday of the most serious charges, a mother standing trial on allegations she covered up the fatal shooting of a 14-year-old boy pleaded guilty to the three remaining charges.
Angelina DeAbreu, 31, now of Stroudsburg, pleaded guilty to one count of tampering with evidence and two counts of hindering apprehension after prosecutors finished calling witnesses and her attorneys asked that the charges be dismissed.
“It’s a big misunderstanding,” DeAbreu said after entering her plea. “I (express) my deepest sympathy to (shooting victim Tyler Winstead’s) family, on behalf of me, my son … my family. There was no cover up … it was a big accident.”
She is free and scheduled to be sentenced July 1. Her lawyer said it’s likely she will get probation.
In the last three days of testimony, prosecutors said DeAbreu cleaned up blood stains and hid the gun that killed the Wilkes-Barre teenager on April 5, 2012 in her Hill Street home. Her son and the victim lived on the same street and had been friends.
Investigators said the gun still has not been located.
DeAbreu’s son, Elijah Yusiff, 14, testified Tuesday he wanted to show his friend the gun and pulled the trigger, thinking the gun was empty.
Yusiff said he realized Winstead was shot and panicked. He then dragged his friend’s body down a flight of steps and outside, where he told police a short time later that Winstead was gunned down in a drive-by shooting.
Motion to dismiss
Prosecutors rested their case Thursday afternoon, and DeAbreu’s attorneys, Tom Marsilio and Larry Kansky, immediately asked that charges be dismissed, arguing prosecutors did not present enough evidence for their client to be convicted.
Judge David Lupas, after a brief recess, agreed with DeAbreu’s attorneys that the charges of corruption of minors — the most serious charge DeAbreu faced – and a charge of making false reports to law enforcement should be dismissed.
“I do have some concerns,” Lupas said. “The evidence … implicates Elijah Yusiff.”
First Assistant District Attorney Samuel Sanguedolce then asked for a recess after Lupas’ ruling – it was his intention to explore if the judge’s ruling could be appealed.
“We were trying to find a remedy,” Sanguedolce said. “But there was no remedy. So, we reached a deal.”
He said it was a disappointment to have lost the most serious charge — corruption of minors — and it is still the opinion of investigators that DeAbreu saw blood stains in her house, removed the gun, bleached the blood stains and text-messaged a friend to help her get rid of the weapon.
“The guilty plea to the remaining charges was sufficient,” Sanguedolce said.
Winstead’s family was not in the courtroom during DeAbreu’s guilty plea and family members appeared upset after learning she would be entering a plea.
“I can’t deal with it,” Winstead’s grandmother, Carol Golden, said when leaving a courtroom. Outside the courthouse, she said DeAbreu is “getting away with it.”
Sanguedolce said Winstead’s family has been reliving his death over and over for the past 13 months, and that nothing that could or would happen inside the courthouse could bring Winstead back.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever see a stronger family,” he said.
Marsilio said DeAbreu’s plea stands for itself and that all along prosecutors had no substantial evidence against his client.
“The reason we took the trial was because of the corruption of minors charge,” Marsilio said. “We had to fight it … and we won.”
Marsilio said he, Kansky and DeAbreu are pleased the case is almost over and that it is hoped it will bring closure to the Winstead family.
Marsilio said his client likely will face a probationary sentence, though if the judge decides to sentence her at the stiffer end of the sentencing range, she could get up to one year in prison.
After DeAbreu entered her plea, the jurors reentered the courtroom after an almost three-hour break and the judge dismissed them.
Juror speaks out
Outside the courthouse, juror Wesley Dervinis, of Wilkes-Barre, said jurors were not told of a guilty plea, though that is what they had expected during the long wait.
“I felt she was guilty from the beginning,” Dervinis said, noting he kept wondering why DeAbreu would be asking friends to help her get rid of a gun, and then continuing to say she didn’t have one.
“Why ask a neighbor for help? Why say you didn’t have it?” Dervinis said.
He said that when Yusiff testified Tuesday, he “took his word for it.”
“It took a lot of guts (for him to say he shot Winstead),” Dervinis said.
Yusiff is being held in a juvenile detention facility on an undisclosed charge stemming from the shooting.