Maryland teen killer gunned down in Israeli prison shootout

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A Maryland man serving a prison sentence in Israel for a horrific murder he committed as a teen in Aspen Hill was gunned down Sunday by police special forces after he stole a gun and shot three guards.

Samuel Sheinbein, 34, who killed and dismembered a friend in 1997 before fleeing to Israel with the aid of his father, was fatally shot after counter-terrorism units stormed the prison area in which he had barricaded himself after the attack, according to published reports.

His death closes a chapter that began nearly 17 years ago in Montgomery County with a gruesome killing.

Sheinbein and a friend, Aaron Benjamin Needle, in September 1997 choked 19-year-old Alfredo Enrique Tello Jr. with a rope, set his body on fire and then sawed off his arms and legs in what then-Montgomery County State’s Attorney Douglas F. Gansler called a “thrill kill.”

The teens carted the torso in a garden cart to the garage of a vacant house in Aspen Hill where it was found by a real estate agent. Tello’s arms, severed at the elbows, and legs, cut off at the knees, were dumped in trash cans and never found. Needle, 18, committed suicide in jail in April 1998, two days before his trial was scheduled to begin.

With the help of his father, Sol, Sheinbein flew to Israel from New York City three days after the body was discovered. Because the elder Sheinbein was born in pre-state Palestine, Israeli officials refused U.S. requests to allow extradition of his son. Under Israeli law, citizenship passes to children of citizens.

Israel’s refusal to immediately extradite Sheinbein strained the two nations’ close ties and drew protests, including from then-Attorney General Janet Reno. Some members of Congress were indignant that Israel did not demonstrate the cooperation expected of an ally receiving $3 billion annually in U.S. economic and military aid.

Sheinbein initially pleaded innocent but in 1999 negotiated a plea bargain on which he was sentenced to 24 years in prison with a prospect of parole in 14 years. He faced life in prison without parole in Maryland.

The Tel Aviv judge that sentenced him said Sheinbein had clearly manipulated a law designed to prevent handing Jews over to anti-Semitic regimes.

Israeli law was changed to avoid similar cases.

Mr. Gansler, who at the time vocally criticized Israeli judges for their handling of the case, said Sunday that the incident brings closure to the case.

“He’s on the brink of being released from jail and then he goes on what basically seems to be a suicide rampage,” said Mr. Gansler, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor. “So this was a young man who was still very troubled, and this ends a very tumultuous life.”

The Times of Israel reported that security officials negotiated with Sheinbein for over an hour before he fired at counter-terrorism forces surrounding his position in a cell, hitting three additional guards. Two of the guards were seriously injured, Israeli officials said.

This article is based in part on wire service reports

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