The father of murder victim Tony Wasilewski sobbed so hard during the sentencing of his son's killer he was forced to briefly leave the hearing to compose himself.
Somehow, the grieving father remained composed while speaking in court Monday at the sentencing of Jacquez Davon Brown, who was 15 years old when he gunned down Wasilewski, 19, a native of Kingston, Luzerne County.
"You robbed my son of his phone, you robbed my son of his life and you robbed my son of his future," Scott Wasilewski told Brown. "And as a result, my life is now a living hell."
The grieving father expressed frustration that he couldn't "fix this" for his son — that he can't trade his own life for that of his only child's.
"Quite frankly, it's more than I can handle," he told presiding Common Pleas Judge Richard K. Renn.
The background:Brown, now 18, killed Wasilewski in front of the victim's home in the 300 block of East Princess Street in York City about 2:30 p.m. July 20, 2011.
York City Police have said Brown robbed Wasilewski of a cell phone earlier in the day, and that Wasilewski confronted Brown after spotting the teen hanging out on a porch with 10 to 15 other youths.
The two argued, then struggled, and Wasilewski put Brown in a headlock, trial testimony revealed.
Brown broke away and shot Wasilewski repeatedly. He fled through a breezeway and ran to the 300 block of East Philadelphia Street, police have said.
Alleged hostage: There, he took a hostage at gunpoint and forced the young man into a home in the block, police said.
The hostage got away and officers surrounded the building and captured Brown on the roof, police said.
Wasilewski's phone was found on the roof, hidden under a folding chair.
The gun was found in the same building about two months later, hidden under a piece of furniture, according to trial testimony.
Brown was never charged in the alleged hostage-taking, and jurors at his murder trial didn't hear about it. They took less than two hours to convict him of first-degree murder.
No automatic life: In Pennsylvania, people convicted of first- and second-degree murder automatically receive life sentences with no possibility of parole. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled such automatic sentences are unconstitutional for defendants who committed murders as juveniles, and the Pennsylvania Legislature subsequently rewrote the law to comply.
State law now requires judges to sentence juvenile killers to at least 35 years in prison, and still gives judges the latitude to impose life-without-parole sentences.
While imposing sentence, Judge Renn noted Brown's juvenile record and his "assaultive and disruptive behavior" since he was incarcerated after the murder while awaiting trial.
Half a century: "It is clear the defendant has to be segregated from society, for society's protection ... for a significant period of time," Renn said.
He sentenced Brown to 50 years to life and gave him credit for time served.
Renn also ordered Brown to pay Scott Wasilewski $5,634.20 in restitution for the victim's funeral expenses.
Scott Wasilewski described his son as "a truly amazing human being."
"To say my son was full of life is an understatement," he said.
'Unbreakable spirit': Tara Wasilewski also spoke in court, telling the judge about her nephew's huge heart and "unbreakable spirit."
"Tony ... made our family complete," she said. "Tony taught me that sometimes family isn't something you're born to — it's something you make."
He was adopted by Scott Wasilewski when he was 6 years old, according to the family.
The young man "could make you laugh till your belly hurt," Tara Wasilewski said.
Tom Wasilewski said his grandson loved going to rock concerts and dressing sharply.
As a boy, he played Little League and was an excellent athlete, his grandfather said.
Tony Wasilewski moved to York to be closer to his girlfriend, his family said.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org.