OAKLAND — Asmerom Gebreselassie was sentenced Monday to three consecutive terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole for fatally shooting three in-laws at an Oakland apartment complex on Thanksgiving Day 2006.
Gebreselassie, who had been removed from court several times for outbursts during his four-month-long triple murder trial, continued his rambunctious ways Monday as Nakahara began to issue the multiple life-without-parole sentences against the Eritrean native.
“You know who is evil? You’re evil, you’re a criminal, go back to Japan,” Gebreselassie shouted as Nakahara, who has never been to Japan, smiled. “You’re an insult to our criminal justice system. This is not Japan, this is the United States.”
Gebreselassie, 47, was found guilty earlier this year of killing his sister-in-law, her brother and her mother during a 2006 Thanksgiving Day massacre sparked, a prosecutor said, by Gebreselassie’s mistaken belief that the in-laws killed his older brother.
Gebreselassie’s belief was based on the sudden death of Abraham Gebreselassie, 42, who died in his bed in March 2006 in what a pathologist later determined was an unexplained natural death.
Gebreselassie and his brother Tewodros Gebreselassie, 43, however, never believed the death was natural and instead convinced themselves that Abraham died as a result of poisoning from their in-laws who the Gebreselassie brothers said were after a $500,000 life insurance policy.
In reaction to Abraham’s death, evidence during the trial revealed, Asmerom and Tewodros created a plan to kill their in-laws and kidnap their 2-year-old nephew.
The brothers acted on that plan on Thanksgiving Day 2006 when Tewodros helped Asmerom gain entry into their in-law’s apartment where Asmerom began firing a handgun, killing his sister-in-law Winta Mehari, 28, her mother Regbe Bahrengasi, 50 and her brother Yonas Mehari, 17.
Tewodros Gebreselassie was also found guilty of the murders and is expected to be given multiple life without parole sentences later this month.
Survivors of the shooting testified during the trial and spoke to the court Monday describing a dreadful day and relaying the pain they have suffered since.
“Every second what I see is how Asmerom murdered my beloved family members and I just want to ask him why,” said Winta Mehari’s brother, Merhawi Mehari, who watched as his relatives were gunned down inside their apartment at Keller Plaza. “Asmerom, you are not a human being, you are a monster killer.”
Merhawi Mehari’s twin brother, Angesom, who jumped out of a third-story window to avoid the bloodshed, said Asmerom Gebreselassie is the perfect example of evil.
“He is the evil one,” Angesom Mehari said as he pointed at Asmerom. “Everyone in this courtroom has seen how evil that man, Asmerom Gebreselassie, is. He is an evil lowlife.”
Gebreselassie shook his head and smirked while the victims read their statements but he saved his outburst for Nakahara who Gebreselassie began shouting at as the judge began to announce the sentence.
“You are going to be removed from the bench, you’re a criminal,” Gebreselassie shouted as one of his sisters in the audience began shouting as well. “This is a wrongful conviction, period.”
Gebreselassie was then escorted from the courtroom as was his family members.