Sheinbein had it coming; he showed depravity in killing teen, shooting Israeli guards

Robert McCartney
Columnist February 26

It’s neither politically correct nor morally uplifting to say so, but I’m going to put it out there anyway.

Sam Sheinbein had it coming.

Robert McCartney’s column on local issues appears Thursdays and Sundays in The Post’s Metro section. View Archive

We’ve all been thinking it.

It’s not just the immediate circumstances of his death in an Israeli prison Sunday. If you smuggle a gun into a penal institution and start shooting at guards, it’s reasonable to expect that you’re going to meet a quick and violent end.

In addition, his wounding of three Israeli officers confirmed what has long been apparent: Sheinbein never grew out of the exceptional depravity that led him to kill and dismember another teen in 1997.


Samuel Sheinbein arrives at the Tel Aviv District Court in this March 22, 1999, photo. (Staff/REUTERS)

I don’t know if he was born bad. He might well have been mentally ill.

But I know for sure that he’s shown us nothing but wickedness since we first encountered him 17 years ago as a high school senior in Montgomery County.

That’s when Sheinbein orchestrated the murder of Freddy Tello, an innocent acquaintance. Sheinbein didn’t do it alone, but he was the mastermind. His accomplice and friend, Aaron Needle, hanged himself shortly before he was scheduled to go to trial.

Sheinbein’s motive was macabre, according to prosecutors, who said that killing Tello was a “practice murder” and that he was thinking of doing the same to a boy he viewed as a romantic rival.

He prepared carefully. In a detailed plan, Sheinbein wrote that Makita was the brand of power saw to be used to dismember the corpse. He noted that a certain hobby knife was “recommended by Consumer Reports.” He and Needle bought goggles at a Toys ‘R’ Us on Rockville Pike to protect their eyes when they burned the body in a Wheaton garage.

Sheinbein was arrested in Israel, where he had fled with the help of his lawyer father to evade U.S. justice. There, Sheinbein showed no emotion, much less remorse, in court appearances.

“He never looked sad. He never cried. It was kind of like a blank stare. You see it in the pictures. There’s almost nothing there,” Montgomery State’s Attorney John McCarthy (D) said.

McCarthy, who was the county’s deputy chief prosecutor at the time, met Sheinbein in Israel during the unsuccessful effort to extradite him to America.

McCarthy recalls being shocked when he showed Sheinbein explicit photos of Tello’s charred remains, which were initially thought to be a deer carcass.

“He looked up and said, ‘You have any more of these?’ It was chilling to see his reaction. It was the only time he showed any interest,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy and others said Sheinbein’s end was a classic example of “suicide by cop.”

Too cowardly to take his own life, Sheinbein was perfectly willing to harm others again for his own twisted purpose.

It’s supremely ironic that Sheinbein died violently in a prison in Israel. His father, Sol, went to considerable trouble to have Sam jailed there rather than in the United States.

Sol Sheinbein arranged to spirit Sam to Israel largely, he said, because he feared his son would be a target for Latino gangs in a Maryland prison. Tello was Hispanic, and Latino groups vocally protested the failure to prosecute him here.

The case triggered a minor diplomatic crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations when Sam avoided extradition by using the slenderest of legal arguments to claim Israeli citizenship.

Sol was born in British-occupied Palestine and left the new state of Israel as a young child. Under Israeli law, however, he was considered a citizen. That meant Sam qualified for citizenship, even though he had never lived in Israel and traveled there on a U.S. passport.

Sam’s death doesn’t resolve his father’s legal culpability. Sol still faces a charge in Maryland of obstructing justice in the case.

That’s why Sol has remained in Israel. He whined to the Israeli paper Haaretz in 2002 that he was a victim of “political persecution” by U.S. prosecutors unhappy over losing the extradition fight.

McCarthy said the charge against Sol should be reconsidered, given that so many years have passed and he’s now lost his son.

But Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler (D), who was Montgomery state’s attorney when the indictment was brought, sees no reason to drop it.

Sol’s “role in this doesn’t change,” said Gansler, who is running for governor. “Now three more people have been hurt by it. He also should face responsibility for his acts.”

Sam Sheinbein is gone, but we haven’t yet finished with his legacy of evil.

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