US murderer Samuel Sheinbein killed after shoot-out at Israel prison

Man who fled after gruesome Maryland murder was nearing eligibility for parole

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 February, 2014, 9:54pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 February, 2014, 12:59am


Special forces raided a prison in central Israel after an inmate stole a gun, shot several guards and barricaded himself inside the compound, killing the man who was serving time for a gruesome murder carried out in the US.

Police identified the inmate as Samuel Sheinbein, an American who fled to Israel after murdering and dismembering another man in Maryland in 1997 and whose case sparked a high-profile row between the two nations.

Police special forces rushed to the Sharon Prison on Sunday in central Israel after Sheinbein stole a weapon and shot three guards, wounding two of them seriously. He then barricaded himself inside the compound where a stand-off ensued.

The inmate then opened fire again, wounding three more guards, before being shot. One of the wounded guards was said to be fighting for his life.

Sheinbein, 34, faced trial in Israel in 1999, two years after he fled to the country and successfully sought refuge from extradition, enraging US authorities. An Israeli court sentenced him to 24 years for the killing and dismemberment of Alfredo Enrique Tello, 19. His extradition to Maryland was blocked after a year-long battle between Israel and the US over an Israeli law that prohibited it.

Following that embarrassment, Israel changed its laws to allow the extradition of Israeli citizens on condition that they were returned to Israel to serve any sentence imposed.

Sheinbein admitted strangling Tello with a rope and hitting him several times with a sharp object. He then dismembered the body with an electric saw and burned it, authorities said.

Sheinbein fled to Israel days after Tello's remains were found in a garage.

He successfully sought refuge under a law that prevented the extradition of Israeli citizens to foreign countries.

His father, Saul, was born in the country and Sheinbein qualified for Israeli citizenship.

Israel refused to extradite him, prompting protests from senior officials, including then-US attorney general Janet Reno. Some congressmen who had otherwise been friendly to Israel threatened to cut aid.

Nitzana Darshan-Leitner, who represented Sheinbein in 1997, bemoaned the "terrible tragedy" that befell the families of the wounded guards and the gunman and challenged the system for how it handled her client.

"When he was sentenced, he was 17, without a criminal background, a kid from a normal background," she said. "It is hard to understand how after all these years in prison it was not able to help him rehabilitate."

Maryland attorney general Douglas Gansler, who tried to extradite Sheinbein back to the US as a state's attorney in the 1990s, said the timing of Sheinbein's prison outburst was most striking because he was close to serving two-thirds of his sentence and becoming eligible for parole.

"He's on the brink of being released from jail and then he goes on what basically seems to be a suicide rampage," Gansler said.

"So this was a young man who was still very troubled, and this ends a very tumultuous life."