Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Teen in brutal carjacking of a Kenyan man faces 50 years in prison

Teen in brutal carjacking of a Kenyan man faces 50 years in prison
Teen in brutal carjacking of a Kenyan man faces 50 years in prison

Joan Namachemo – Leshaun Murray and two other teenagers were convicted in the carjacking and assault of Namachemo’s husband, Mike Wasike, in 2013.

Des Moines: Four years ago, Sandrah Nasimiyu reunited with her father Michael Wasike after he moved to the United States from Kenya.

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But the now 14-year-old only got to spend three years with her father, Nasimiyu told a Polk County District Court judge on Thursday. That’s because her father was violently beaten during a carjacking Feb. 26, 2013. Now Wasike is permanently disabled, without the ability to walk, talk, see or feed himself.

“I remember Dad talking about taking a daddy-daughter trip to Chicago. I guess I’ll never get that,” Nasimiyu said during Leshaun Murray’s sentencing hearing. “Now, our vacations are to Oklahoma. We can’t do things together, can’t laugh or play around because it makes him agitated. I can’t get a smile from my Dad.”

Judge Karen Romano sentenced Murray, 17, to two 25-year prison sentences, to be served consecutively. In April, Murray enter guilty pleas on two counts of first-degree robbery.

Romano also imposed a mandatory minimum sentence on the first count, relating to the near-fatal carjacking of Wasike. This means Murray will have to serve 70 percent of his 25-year prison sentence before being eligible for parole.

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Romano said a mandatory minimum sentence was not appropriate for the second count, relating to Murray threatening Sam Lasswell with a gun prior to carjacking Wasike.

Police said Murray, Kenneth “Kenny” Barry, 18, and Terrance Lamont Cheeks Jr., 17, sought to stop motorists driving by on the snowy night in 2013 and steal their cars. Murray held a gun, police said.

The trio stopped Wasike, beat him, and left him on the street. Wasike is at a treatment facility in Tulsa, Okla.

“Mike is doing fine, but he has not made so much significant progress,” Joan Namachemo, Wasike’s wife, said after the hearing. “He is able to understand, but unable to communicate so he gets really agitated in trying to communicate with you.”

At Thursday’s hearing, Wasike’s daughter read a victim impact statement.

Nasimiyu talked about reuniting with her father when she was 10, after he moved from Kenya and rejoined the family. But she only got three years with him, she said.

She read a poem about losing her father, then turned to Murray.

“You don’t scare me,” she told him. “To me, you’re weak. You took the easy way out.”

A victim advocate also read a statement from Wasike’s 5-year-old son, Melvin.

“I wish my dad was here with us so I can tell him what I need,” the boy wrote. “Now, we have to call him on the phone but he can’t talk to us. He doesn’t respond to us.”

During the first half of the sentencing hearing, a Des Moines police detective talked about Murray’s previous run-ins with law enforcement: a fight on a bus and a charge for running from police.

In a surveillance video of the fight, Murray can be heard referencing a local gang, Detective Jeffrey Shannon testified. Shannon also said a phone call from the Marshall County Jail where Murray has been held, references Murray’s previous gang involvement and desire to rejoin the gang if he is released.

Heather Lauber, Murray’s attorney, disputed this interpretation, saying the audio does not make any specific reference to a gang and that Murray was talking with his cousin.

Murray has not had disciplinary issues at the jail since October 2013, but had several problems prior to that, including communicating with other inmates and drawing gang symbols and illustrations of violence and drugs, Shannon said during his testimony.

A second phone call between Murray and family members of Terrance Cheeks, one of his co-defendants who was sentenced to 50 years in prison, recorded Murray apologizing.

Lauber said the audio didn’t prove anything, but Shannon and prosecutors said it was an apology because it was Murray holding the gun that night.

“Mr. Murray was the one with the gun,” Shannon said. “He was the one that did the talking and ultimately the one that did the assaulting.”

After the prosecution wrapped up testimony, the defense called Arthur Konar, a private practice psychologist. Konar said he interviewed Murray from jail in June and July.

“What I found out was that at the time I evaluated him, Leshaun Murray had a depressive disorder, was in remission in a controlled environment of marijuana as well as alcohol use and from a cognitive, academic prospective, had borderline intellectual functioning as well as disabilities in math and in reading,” Konar said.

Borderline intellectual functioning means a person has some intellectual impairments but not to the degree of mental retardation, Konar said.

Konar also mentioned how Murray’s family life affected his mental development. The psychologist talked about how Murray didn’t know his father and his mother was incarcerated much of the teen’s life.

“He was an individual dealing with a lot of impulsivity as well as very, very bad problem-solving, or poor executive functioning,” Konar said.

Konar said he thought Leshaun “had a reasonable shot of being rehabilitated.”

Lauber, Murray’s attorney, asked Romano to consider when sentencing Murray that he “was so young when the offense was committed.”

The prosecution asked the court to impose two 25-year prison sentences consecutively with mandatory minimum sentences.

After a 30-minute break following closing statements, Judge Romano delivered her ruling. Romano described the case as being “very difficult” for the victims and their families, Murray and his family and the court.

Romano told Murray that she does not see him as a “lost cause” and that he demonstrated he “could exhibit proper behavior.” She also said the court was presented “overwhelming evidence” that Murray’s “return to the community is not appropriate” at this time.

Murray has 30 days to appeal the ruling to the Iowa Supreme Court, Romano said.

Namachemo said after the trial she was pleased with the sentence. She also said she was happy to not have to go to court any more.

“I have been living a nightmare this last year, anticipating the court dates coming and going,” Namachemo said after the hearing. “Having done this day and this particular event, I’m feeling kind of relief.”


Teen in brutal carjacking of a Kenyan man faces 50 years in prison

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