Heather Nellis/Recorder staff Seventeen-year-old Anthony Brasmeister, right, is escorted by a Montgomery County corrections officer to the county courthouse in Fonda Tuesday. Brasmeister pleaded guilty Tuesday to murdering Jonathan DeJesus and Paul Damphier with 16-year-old Matthew Phelps.
By HEATHER NELLIS
Recorder News Staff
FONDA -- Under the plea bargain 17-year-old Anthony E. Brasmeister accepted at Montgomery County Court Tuesday, he could be 42 years old when he's released from prison.
Matthew C. Phelps, 16, could be 31 at his release under the similar plea he accepted two weeks ago.
But not if the families of Jonathan DeJesus and Paul Damphier have anything to say about it.
"They'll never get out," said Bridget Masesie, Jonathan's mom. "I'll fight so they're never released on parole."
"I hope they rot," said Paul's mom, Sandra Damphier. "As long as I'm alive, I'll fight against their release. I'll be at every parole hearing."
Within two weeks of each other, Brasmeister and Phelps both pleaded guilty to murdering DeJesus and Damphier last July. Brasmeister and Phelps shot them to death in a soybean field not far from the town of Florida home of Phelps' grandparents.
Brasmeister -- of Belfance Road, Amsterdam -- was scheduled Tuesday to have a Huntley hearing to determine which statements to police could be used against him at a trial scheduled in June.
He opted instead to take a plea and admit his guilt to two charges of second-degree murder.
On April 17, Phelps -- of Snooks Corners Road, town of Florida -- took a plea for the same charges. He had agreed to testify against Brasmeister during trial.
District Attorney James E. "Jed" Conboy said the only pleas he would agree to would be for two counts of second-degree murder, which were the most serious charges in an eight-count indictment handed up in December.
Conboy said Brasmeister and Phelps were charged with second-degree as opposed to first degree murder, because an essential component of a first-degree charge is the defendent has to be at least 18-years-old at the time of the crime.
The victims' mothers agreed to the terms of the plea bargains.
Both Brasmeister and Phelps will be sentenced to indeterminate, concurrent prison terms July 11, just two days after the one-year anniversary of the crime.
Brasmeister faces between 25 years to life in prison. He was 16 at the time of the murders, while Phelps, who was 15 at the time, faces between 15 to life. Both had birthdays this spring.
Acting Judge Polly Hoye reminded both what an indeterminate sentence meant.
"There are no promises when you will be released," she told a fidgety Brasmeister Tuesday.
Under the minimum, both Phelps and Brasmeister could seemingly have years of freedom ahead of them after their release, years not afforded to Damphier, who was 16, and DeJesus, who was just 13.
"He was looking forward to driving," said Sandra Damphier about her son, Paul. "He'll never get to do that now. He'll never graduate from school, he'll never have children, he'll never see his 4-year-old niece grow old."
Had Phelps and Brasmeister gone to trial and been convicted, their sentences would have been consecutive instead of concurrent, for minimum prison terms of 30 years and 50 years, respectively.
Masesie agreed with her son's uncle, Hector DeJesus, that no amount of prison time would have been enough.
"No sentence will take the emptiness away," Hector DeJesus said.
Though a trial conviction would have yielded consecutive sentences, Masesie said hearing Brasmeister plead guilty brought some sense of relief.
She said she's been apprised, in part, of what happened the night DeJesus and Damphier were killed, but the pleas spared her of sitting through a trial, when those detailed would have been disclosed to a jury.
"I know enough. A lot of my family members have a lot of questions, but some things I just can't listen to," Masesie said. "But my family wants to know exactly what happened -- from the second he walked out of my house."
Conboy said Tuesday he still can't release full details of the evidence against Brasmeister and Phelps, as their sentence hearings are still pending.
In a previous interview, Conboy estimated the shooting incident took place sometime in the early evening of July 9. He said the cause of death was related to gunshot wounds, and the victims were identified by their dental records.
The boys were missing 10 days before authorities received a tip about human remains found in the field near Phelps' home. An Amber Alert was never issued in connection with the boys' disappearance, which were reported by their mothers the next day. Police said the case didn't meet the criteria to issue such an alert.
Conboy said two .22 caliber rifles were examined by an ammunition identification expert in connection with the case. One was recovered from Phelps' grandparents' home on Snooks Corners Road home in the town of Florida, the other from Brasmeister's father's home.
Three of the four involved in the incident were classmates; Greater Amsterdam School District Superintendent Thomas Perillo in late July confirmed Damphier, DeJesus and Brasmeister were all students of the district, but Phelps was not.
Conboy said Phelps lived with his mother in the state of Florida, but had been staying with his grandparents for the summer.
Sandra Damphier believes her son and his friend were lured to the scene of the crime. She said her son was such a trusting person that he would never have thought someone would harm him.
"I'm just disgusted," she said. "They took away two beautiful, innocent boys who didn't deserve to be taken from this world."
Masesie expressed similar thoughts.
"My son could have never done to someone what was done to him," she said. "Not in a million years."