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By Michael P. Rellahan
WEST CHESTER — A West Grove teenager who was a senior at Avon Grove High School when he was charged with participating in a gang-related double homicide in New Garden told the judge who sentenced him last week that he could not explain why he thought it necessary to be involved in the crime.
“Do you know why you joined this gang in the first place?” Common Pleas Senior Judge Ronald Nagle asked Stephen Andrew D’Addezio before formally sentencing him to 8 1/2 to 17 years in state prison on two counts of third-degree murder and one count of conspiracy Friday.
“No,” responded D’Addezio, whose body is adorned with tattoos indicating his allegiance to the Surenos 13, a violent street gang with a significant presence in southern Chester County. “You must have understood the potential consequences of your actions,” Nagle said, prodding.
“I never thought it would go that far,” D’Addezio said. “If I could go back, I would do it.“
D’Addezio, 18, is the ninth defendant of 12, both adults and teenagers, who were arrested and charged with the death of 27-year-old Cuahuctemo “Temo” Bedolla of West Grove — identified as a member of the Vikings, enemies of the Surenos 13s — and 29-year-old Jose “Little” Rodriguez, also of West Grove, an ex-convict. Both men died of stab wounds in December 2011outside a trailer home in New Garden.
According to Assistant District Attorney Christopher deBarrena-Sarobe, who is prosecuting the cases with his colleague, Assistant District Attorney Andrea Cardamone, D’Addezio had been implicated in the murders when police investigators recovered his cell phone, which he had dropped, and found incriminating text messages on it.
At an earlier hearing, Chester County Detective Joseph Nangle said one text was sent within an hour of the killings and stated, “We jkiwe kis killed em I tellu ib school.” A later text also stated, “We jus did w3 killewd en.”
Of those who have pleaded guilty to third-degree murder charges, one was sentenced to 11-to-22 years in state prison, while others have entered “open” guilty pleas and are awaiting sentencing by Nagle, who is overseeing all the cases. One of those charged when he was a teenager has seen his case sent to county Juvenile Court for disposition.
Three defendants – Orlando Diaz, James Jones, and Edwin Romero – are still awaiting trial. Romero, who was 16 at the time of the incident -- has asked that his case be sent to Juvenile Court as well. Nagle has not made a decision in that request. Jones faces first-degree murder charges.
The homicides took place on the evening of Dec. 3, 2011, at a home-trailer lot in the 1600 block of Baltimore Pike. A group of people, organized by students from Kennett Area High School, had gone there to watch a televised boxing match. Bedolla and Rodriguez joined them. Although Bedolla was associated with the Vikings gang, the people who put the party together were not necessarily members of that street gang, according to investigators.
At some point in the evening, members of the Surenos-13 gang came to the party, but they were asked to leave because of the presence of members of the Vikings. Those Surenos-13s left, but alerted other gang members, who gathered together in a number of vans and descended on the party, intent on attacking the Vikings, police said. With them, they brought a number of weapons, including bats, wooden stakes, and knives.
They surrounded the Vikings outside the trailer on the lot and began fighting them. Bedolla was stabbed multiple times and taken to the Jennersville Regional Hospital, where he died. After police learned of the fight, they searched the area and found Rodriguez’s body near a small creek on the property.
In the facts that were used as the underpinning of D’Addezio’s guilty plea, deBarrena-Sarobe said that the defendant had acted “with wanton and willful disregard to the risk” that the attack on the party would carry, including death.
“The defendant was not a mere spectator during this physical assault,” the statement read.
Listening to the proceedings through the assistance of an interpreter were members of the victims’ families, who have attended all of the hearings to date. DeBarrena-Sarobe told Nagle that although they were somewhat disappointed with the sentence that D’Addezio, and others, received, they understood why they were offered.
“They’re not thrilled with it,” deBarrena-Sarobe told the judge. “They want as much time as possible for all the defendants. But they understand our system, and they are satisfied with this resolution.”
The sentence was included in a plea agreement that had been negotiated between deBarrena-Sarobe, his office, and D’Addezio’s attorney, Mark Rassman of West Chester.
Rassman told Nagle that he and his client had gone over the plea and the rights that he was giving up, and that he believed D’Addezio understood what he was doing by entering it. Rassman said that he would withdraw a petition that he had filed to have D’Addezio’s case moved to Juvenile Court.
“Are you here today freely and voluntarily of your own free will pleading guilty to two counts of third degree murder?” Nagle asked D’Addezio. “Yes,” he responded.
D’Addezio had been living with his aunt in West Grove at the time of the killings, but Rassman said that she was too traumatized by the matter to attend the hearing.
Nagle, in comments from the bench, said he remains mystified why the murders took place.
“I must say your participation in a gang and in this crime, killing these two men, is very puzzling,” he told D’Addezio, who was dressed in a blue plaid shirt and jeans, wearing a thin beard and short brown hair. “A rational human being would think about it, and would have acted differently. That didn’t occur, so we’ve got two senseless killings” because of “machismo” and “false bravery,” he said.
“It has cost two men their lives, and others years in prison,” he said.
As part of the plea and sentence, D’Addezio is forbidden from being associated with a street gang, in or out of prison.