Teen in Georgetown Murder Case Is Ordered to Remain in Custody Till 21

By Henri E. Cauvin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 16, 2006

The 15-year-old accused of taking part in the killing of a British man in Georgetown over the summer has pleaded guilty -- as a juvenile -- and yesterday a judge ordered that he be held in the city's custody until he is 21.

The teenager's case is the first to be closed in connection with a slaying that stunned the ritzy Northwest Washington neighborhood and helped lead the police chief to declare a crime emergency.

Three adults are charged in the killing of Alan Senitt, 27, an aspiring politician, whose throat was slit early July 9 as he and a female companion were being robbed on Q Street NW.

Initially, prosecutors said they would seek to charge the 15-year-old as an adult as well. But the D.C. attorney general's office later decided to charge him as a juvenile.

The youth pleaded guilty in August to felony murder, conspiracy to commit robbery, armed robbery and theft. The plea was offered in a hearing at D.C. Superior Court that was closed to the public. Details were revealed during yesterday's proceedings, which The Washington Post was permitted to observe on the condition that the youth not be identified.

Although the juvenile was not accused of inflicting the fatal wound, Assistant Attorney General Lynette Collins said in court that he knowingly participated in the armed robbery, which made him guilty of the murder, too.

By pleading guilty as a juvenile, the teenager ensured that he will be under city supervision for little more than five years, a fraction of the time he would have likely faced in prison if convicted as an adult. Traci L. Hughes, spokeswoman for the D.C. attorney general, declined to explain the reasoning behind the decision to charge him as a juvenile.

Still awaiting trial are Christopher Piper, 26, Jeffrey Rice, 23, and Olivia Miles, 27. Prosecutors have said that Rice, Piper and the teenager attacked Senitt and the companion, and that Rice killed him. Miles allegedly drove them to and from the scene. It was unclear yesterday whether the juvenile has agreed to testify against the others; Piper and Rice had been staying with the youth and his mother at their apartment in Southeast Washington.

Exactly where the teenager will go will be determined by the District's juvenile justice agency.

In court yesterday, Judge Jerry S. Byrd listened to the words of Senitt's loved ones, who sent letters from their homes overseas. Standing next to his attorney, the juvenile appeared to be doing the same.

"Every night we go to sleep hoping that it is all a nightmare and every day we awake to the same horror and the same pain," Senitt's parents, Karen and Jack, wrote from Britain.

"There wasn't even any time to tell him how much we loved him, how proud we were of him. No time to hold him in his moment of greatest need. No time to kiss him and say goodbye," the parents wrote.

Senitt's girlfriend, Linda Kawalsky, wrote of how she had planned to move in January from South Africa to London to be with Senitt, how much they were looking forward to being in the same city. "But since he was robbed of his life, I can barely look to tomorrow," she wrote.

The family's words were flush with anger and pain, even in the voice of the victims' advocate who read them. But a touch of compassion and hope seemed present, too, a tribute perhaps to the spirit of the slain man.

"Take time to learn about the person you brutally took away from the world," Senitt's cousin, Laurene Smith, wrote, "and hopefully gain some knowledge and direction on where you would like to be once your sentence is complete."

Defense attorney Geoffrey O. Harris urged the judge to commit the juvenile only until 18, saying he was not responsible for Senitt's death. "It was never his intention that somebody would die that night," Harris declared.

Neither the juvenile nor his mother, who stood before the judge as well, was asked to speak.

But the prosecutor took issue with the defense attorney's characterization of the juvenile's role. "He is responsible as if the knife was in his hand," Collins said.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company