Angelina Jamele, who was just 17 years old when Naugatuck police arrested her on charges of murdering her grandmother in a Pond View residence, will be in her 40s when she is finally released from prison.
Jamele was sentenced to 27 years incarceration on Friday after a lengthy hearing in Waterbury Superior Court. The teenager, now 19, had previously pleaded guilty to one count of murder in the connection with the death of her grandmother, 69-year-old Italia Liguori, in September 2009.
The Naugatuck teenager was remorseful for her actions as she read a statement before Judge Richard Damiani Friday afternoon.
“Seventeen years of hearing her voice, holding her hands in prayer, even falling asleep together… and she is no longer here,” Jamele said with tears in her eyes, adding that she now just sees her grandmother in her dreams and is saddened when she wakes up.
“I have never intended this to happen,” she said. “It was like a bad dream. It was out of my control. I was never able to see the difference between what was real and what wasn’t real.”
The Facts of the Case
The brutality of assault, as highlighted in a arrest warrant, factored into to the lengthy jail sentence.
According to police records, during the morning of Sept. 30, 2009, Naugatuck officers responded to unit 88-5 in the Lantern Park complex after getting a 911 call from Jamele, stating that her grandmother was dead downstairs. Police had to force entry through a back door, and when they got inside they found Liguori with multiple bruises and broken bones at the foot of a staircase.
Liguori was rushed to Saint Mary’s Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 8:31 a.m., police records stated. Prior to police arrival, and after the woman had died, Jamele had taken a shower, put on her grandmother’s jewelry and had prayed in her grandmother’s bedroom, according to Jamele's testimony. When officers got there, they found the teenager in her grandmother’s room, and traces of blood in the house, court records stated.
Jamele gave excuses as to what contributed to Liguori's death, stating that her grandmother had refused to take her medication for diseases like diabetes and heart disease. But on the way to the Naugatuck Police Department, Jamele had admitted to the crime and, upon arrival, gave a written statement in her own writing that she had killed her grandmother, police records said.
Jamele told police she punched Liguori, stomped on her stomach and stood on her throat. She also beat her with a cane and kicked her in the head, police said.
“Part of the reason why I did it is because we never understood each other,” the girl said in her statement to police.
Jamele further mentioned having been on drugs at the time of the assault. Now, during her court appearance, she alluded to her drug using again during her statement. She told the court she had been introduced to heroin at age 15 and that "it got so bad I would do any drugs."
According to police records, an alleged argument over towels sparked the assault on Liguori that ended in her death. After given a written statement to police, Jamele mentioned the towel part, however that was after the young woman's attorney called Naugatuck police saying she was not to comment further.
Murder Vs. Manslaughter
During Friday’s hearing, Damiani had to decide between a minimum of 25 years and a maximum of 28 years in prison for the accused, as worked out in a plea agreement between the State’s Attorney’s Office and Jamele.
According to defense Attorney Tashun Bowden-Lewis, Jamele chose to take the plea agreement rather than go to trial in her case, where a jury could decide the sentence, as she did not want to relive the horror surrounding the incident.
During the 40-minute court hearing on Friday both sides weighed in on what length of time the young woman should have to serve. Family — including Italia Liguori’s own daughter and Jamele's mother, Carmella Liguori — spoke on Jamele’s behalf, stating that she was psychotic at the time of the attack and not herself.
"She should have been charged with manslaughter, not murder," Carmella Liguori said, offering up a lesser charge that could have yielded a shorter prison sentence.
But the intent was the deciding factor, Damiani said, and ultimately the reason the young woman received the murder charge and the 25-28 year sentencing range.
“It was a brutal, vicious killing of your grandmother,” Damiani told Jamele. “If I didn’t believe that it was murder I would have asked the state to come off of the charge and push manslaughter.”
A Hard Upbringing and a Psychotic Teen
A large focus in the case centered on the teen’s sanity at the time of her arrest. The state, which argued for a murder charge over manslaughter, maintained that Jamele had shown the intent in killing Liguori.
Prosecutors acknowledge the fact that Jamele came from a hard upbringing and it was mentioned multiple times in court that the young woman’s parents were both on drugs during Jamele's younger years.
But the state still maintained that the brutality of the crime outweighed the fact that Jamele had a lack of direction growing up. For starters, the state’s attorney pointed to the fact that the girl spoke calmly to Naugatuck police dispatchers during the initial 911 call and, in the entire scope of the conversation, neglected to mention that she was complicit in her grandmother’s death.
Furthermore, Jamele took steps to cover up the crime, such as taking a shower and changing her bloody clothes following the incident, prosecutors said. And on top of that, the assault itself showed a sense of brutality, the prosecutors said, citing multiple fractured ribs Liguori sustained following a medical examination.
“The injuries show how the grandmother fought for her life,” the prosecutor said.
Bowden-Lewis acknowledged the brutality of the crime, however the public defender took the side that Jamele was psychotic at the time. The defense attorney, arguing for the minimum 25-year sentence, also pointed to the growth that Jamele has undergone in the two years since she was incarcerated. The young woman had completed school while in jail, and had obtained a professional culinary certificate, officials said.
“She’s had a complete 180,” Bowden-Lewis said.
Carmella Liguori, Jamele’s mother, tearfully pleaded with the judge on her daughter’s behalf, saying she has forgiven her daughter for killing her own mother.
“I really just want to say she loved her grandmother always,” Carmella Liguori said. “She would never intend to hurt my mom.”
The woman went on to say that, when she first saw Jamele just after the crime while she was being treated at Riverside Hospital in Middletown, Liguori said “it wasn’t my daughter.”
“She didn’t recognize me, she was out of it,” the mother said.
She later added, “I have to forgive her because it was not my daughter who did it. I know it was not my daughter.”
Court officials noted that Jamele was on anti-psychotic drugs shortly after her arrest, and was being treated regularly at a mental hospital. But the query on her psychosis did not hold water against the facts of the case.
In deciding the 27 years, Damiani had the last word on young woman’s case.
“Your family here, they think there’s an injustice being done,” Damiani said.
But, Damiani said, the question of justice centers less on Jamele and more on Liguori.
“Think of the injustice against your grandmother,” the judge said.