Three former residents of the Columbia region were sentenced to long prison terms for the kidnapping and murder of 15-year-old Sanaa Amenhotep.
Nicolle Sanchez-Peralta, Treveon J. Nelson and Jaylen S. Wilson were convicted Tuesday of kidnapping and murdering Amenhotep, who disappeared from outside her home in Columbia, South Carolina, in April 2021. She was found three weeks later in a shallow grave in Lexington County.
The murder of Amenhotep, who was remembered for her smart and daring personality, and the subsequent arrest of three other teenagers, who were friends of Amenhotep, sent shock waves through the Midlands and sparked activists in the black community who criticized the reaction of the law enforcement on her. disappearance.
“The kidnapping and murder of Sanaa Amenhotep has shaken the conscience of our community. A crime of this nature will not be tolerated,” said 11th Circuit attorney Rick Hubbard, who was prosecuting the case along with his deputy, Suzanne Mayes. “Our hearts are with Sanaa’s family and we pray that this conclusion will bring some measure of justice.”
Sanchez-Peralta, 19, was found guilty of kidnapping and murder after a trial in May. She was sentenced to 65 years.
Nelson, 20, and Wilson, 20, pleaded guilty to murder, kidnapping, criminal conspiracy and possession of weapons while committing a violent crime early this year. Both were sentenced to 60 years in prison
The sentences must be served in their entirety and do not allow for parole.
“I’m sending a message,” said District Court Judge Debra McCaslin. “Our youth is killing our youth.”
Amenhotep, the daughter of a prominent anti-violence activist from Newark, New Jersey, moved to South Carolina after her cousin was killed in a shooting there.
On the evening of April 5, 2021, Amenhotep, a ninth grade student at Richland Northeast High School, was on spring break. She had asked her mother, Saleemah Graham-Fleming, if she could go outside to take some photos when she was forced into a stolen car by her “best friend” Sanchez-Peralta with two teenage boys, Nelson and Wilson, her mother. wrote in an online memorial.
Investigators determined that after withdrawing from the neighborhood, Amenhotep was driven nearly an hour away to a remote location in the Leesville area of Lexington County. Her phone was then deactivated and thrown away by her captors.
Testimony presented at the trial of Sanchez-Peralta showed that Amenhotep was beaten and shot 14 times at the crime scene. The defendants buried her body in a shallow grave.
“This young lady of so much potential and promise was brutally tortured and murdered by her peers,” Hubbard said. Wilson and Sanchez-Peralta were under the age of 18 at the time of the murder.
Amenhotep’s body was found on April 29, 2021 in a wooded area of Batesburg-Leesville near Interstate 20. Her family mobilized a wide-ranging effort to find her and called on the police, press and social media to help their find daughter.
Amenhotep’s father, Sharif Amenhotep, traveled from New Jersey to Columbia to stage searches of abandoned hotels and gas stations and search other businesses for his daughter.
In a statement to the press, Hubbard thanked both the Lexington and Richland County Sheriff’s Departments for helping with the investigation. But after Amenhotep’s abduction, many in Columbia’s black community were critical of what they characterized as a slow response from law enforcement.
“We need more responsibility and more community, not just as black people, but as human beings,” said Amenhotep’s mother, Saleemeh Graham-Flemming. “If I had been alone, my daughter might still be missing.”
Activists at the time called on the Richland County Sheriff’s Department and law enforcement in general to show more urgency when black children are reported missing and to treat these cases as kidnappings when parents say they believe it is a kidnapping case .
Since her daughter’s death, Graham-Flemming has founded the ‘Cakie Scholarship’, named after Amenhotep’s nickname. It raises money to send at-risk youth to trade school on a full scholarship.