She died for an iPhone.
Alexander Darnell Buckley, 22, killed 18-year-old Siohban Lee in January and stole the iPhone from her purse. Over and over again at Buckley’s sentencing hearing Thursday, Lee’s relatives expressed horror that the beloved teenager died over something so small.
The phone was, her grandmother Belinda Lee testified, Lee’s first purchase from her own paycheck, “her first bill.”
“Such a little thing,” she said.
D.C. Superior Court Judge Russell F. Canan sentenced Buckley to 22 years in a murder that he, along with prosecutors and members of Lee’s family, deemed “senseless.”
Canan also sentenced Buckley to five years of supervised release, required him to be registered as a gun offender and recommended mental-health treatment.
Buckley, a District resident who met the Takoma Park teen on an online dating site, pleaded guilty in June to second-degree murder. On Thursday, after members of Lee’s family pleaded tearfully for the harshest possible sentence, he addressed them briefly.
“I know you’ll never forget, but I hope you’ll forgive and God will forgive,” he said in a soft, high voice. "That’s all I have to say.”
Lee met Buckley on the social networking site Tagged about a week before her murder. They quickly moved from messaging online to talking on the phone, prosecutors said. Family members have said that on the night of Lee’s death, Buckley had arranged to meet her in the District after she finished her shift at the Starbucks inside the Giant supermarket in downtown Silver Spring.
Lee was standing at a Metro bus stop at Fifth and Nicholson streets NW about 2:30 a.m. on Jan. 25 when Buckley shot her once in the head, prosecutors said. He was found by police hours later; Lee’s black iPhone 4 and a Ruger 9mm semiautomatic handgun were in his apartment.
“The most difficult part of this situation is that Mr. Buckley’s sole reason for murdering my daughter was stealing her phone,” said Sean Lee, the victim’s father. “I feel that since he took her life with so little regard, he should spend the rest of his life in jail.”
A recent graduate of Montgomery Blair High School, Siohban Lee was soon to begin taking classes at MedTech College. Through the challenges of her childhood, Lee’s grandmother said, “she got through it. I got her out of high school. She was working.”
Buckley’s attorney, Jason Downs, argued that the murder was not as senseless as it appeared. When Buckley was young, his mother was beaten to death by his stepfather. He was raised by a grandmother for a few years but was left homeless when she died. He has psychiatric issues and was off his medication when he shot Lee, his lawyer said.
The Rev. Theresa Buckner, who has ministered to Buckley by video since he went to jail, said the convicted murderer is also “a young man who has changed his life around, who has found Jesus Christ.” She asked the court to “show him mercy.”
In the end, Canan explained that Buckley deserved credit for pleading guilty. There were no witnesses to the crime. The sentencing guidelines, he added, exist to ensure fairness from court to court. Still he said, the crime was “unconscionable.”
“For an iPhone,” he said. “There’s just no excuse for it.”