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A Murder's Long Shadow

Eliette Dawes, mother of Alfredo Enrique Tello Jr., sleeps every night with his Charlotte Hornets T-shirt, which she has never washed.
Eliette Dawes, mother of Alfredo Enrique Tello Jr., sleeps every night with his Charlotte Hornets T-shirt, which she has never washed. (By Susan Biddle -- The Washington Post)

When Tello punched Needle during an argument in front of three young women, prosecutors said, Needle suddenly had a victim for his friend.

One week later, on Sept. 16, 1997, Sheinbein and Needle picked up Tello from his job at a Rockville fish store, prosecutors said. Three days later, a real estate agent noticed that the front door lock on a vacant house for sale in Aspen Hill had been tampered with. Inside, a stench led to the garage. Prosecutors said Tello had been strangled and beaten in the head with a shotgun. His limbs had been sawed off -- they have never been found -- and his torso had been burned.

Two days later, Sheinbein and Needle called their parents from New York, saying they were in trouble and needed money to go to Israel, prosecutors said. Sheinbein's parents and brother drove to Manhattan, picked up Samuel and drove him to John F. Kennedy International Airport with a plane ticket and a passport.

Needle's parents sent him money for an Amtrak ticket back to the Washington area, where he was arrested. Seven months later, he hanged himself with a bedsheet in his jail cell, two days before his trial was scheduled to begin. His parents, Roslyn and Sheldon Needle, who live in Rockville, declined to discuss their son or the case.

Samuel's father, Sol Sheinbein, who was disbarred as a Maryland patent lawyer in 2002, is living in Israel and working as an "adviser" at a patent law firm, according to its Web site. He declined a phone interview last week.

Montgomery police still have a 1998 arrest warrant for Sol Sheinbein, 63, on a charge of hindering or obstructing a police investigation. Because it is a misdemeanor, he can be arrested only if he voluntarily returns to the United States.

McCarthy, the Montgomery state's attorney, said the county also has an active warrant for Samuel Sheinbein filed with Interpol, the international police organization. If Samuel Sheinbein traveled to any of the 186 Interpol member countries, McCarthy said, he could be arrested and returned to the United States for trial. A constitutional protection against double jeopardy would not apply, McCarthy said, because Sheinbein has never been tried in the United States.

Still, McCarthy said, prosecuting the case in Maryland would be difficult after so many years, because witnesses have moved and perhaps died.

"Criminal cases don't get better with time," McCarthy said.

It took almost three years before Dawes, a bank teller, could empty her son's closets, but she, too, has moved forward. Two years after her son, known as Freddy, was killed, she married Eric Dawes, a banker whom Freddy had known well. She has two stepsons, who were 8 and 10 and close to Freddy when he was killed. They have grown up wary of strangers, she said.

Freddy's framed paintings and sketches line the basement walls, and photos of him can be seen around the house and on the dashboard of Dawes's car. She still bursts into tears when something reminds her of her son, and she still does a double-take when she spots another lanky, dark-haired teen.

What bothers her most, she said, is not knowing why her son became the target. She said she wonders how difficult it would be for Sheinbein to live wherever he wants -- and return to the United States -- under a false name.

After 10 years, she said, she thinks Sheinbein "ended up getting away with it" because of his far shorter prison sentence in Israel. As she stood in her living room, a few feet from her son's ashes and his framed high school portrait, her eyes filled with tears. No, she said after a long silence, she is not angry anymore.

"I don't think about it now," she said. "Why upset myself? There's a God. I tell myself: 'Leave everything to Him. He'll take care of everything.' "

Special correspondent Samuel Sockol in Jerusalem and staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.

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