Man sentenced to life in prison for 2000 killing

March 22, 2009

The Intelligencer

A Maryland man, convicted of first-degree murder for fatally gunning down his Towamencin aunt in 2000 after she advised him to give up his pursuit of a young girl, will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Montgomery County Judge S. Gerald Corso Friday sentenced Yeshtila A. Ameshe, 35, of Adelphia, Md., to a mandatory life sentence without parole for the shooting death of Haregewene Bitew, 60.

County prosecutors were not seeking the death sentence in the case.

The judge tacked on an additional 2 1/2- to five-year sentence for possessing a gun without a license.

A jury in January deliberated about four hours following three days of trial testimony before finding Ameshe guilty of first-degree murder and related offenses for the fatal shooting.

Ameshe shot and killed Bitew during a family gathering at her Dock Village apartment on the night of June 27, 2000. Standing within three feet of his aunt, Ameshe fired one bullet into her brain, one into her throat and two into her chest, according to trial testimony.

Ameshe, a native of Ethiopia, immigrated to the United States with his wife in 1997, settling in the Ethiopian community in Maryland. Ameshe, who worked as a gas station attendant, and his wife soon parted.

n 1999, he began his pursuit of a young Ethiopian woman. His unwanted attention caused a stir in the Ethiopian community, causing his family’s elders, including Bitew, to meet with him and tell him to end this relationship, according to trial testimony.

Family members testified they believed that Ameshe took their advice in stride although he stopped visiting his family in Towamencin until the day of the killing when the family once again gathered because the family patriarch was facing surgery the following day.

Defense attorney Scott H. Krieger unsuccessfully had argued at trial that his client, who maintains that his aunt is still alive, was insane at the time of the slaying.

Ameshe’s trial was delayed for several years after the killing while lawyers battled as to whether, because of his mental health issues, Ameshe was competent to stand trial. Corso subsequently ruled last March that Ameshe, who received mental health treatment, was competent to move forward with the trial.