Nearly a year after 18-year-old Amanjanea Whitley was killed at a Southeast Washington bus stop, her father took the stand Friday to describe the emptiness in his world.
Speaking at a sentencing hearing for the teen convicted of killing his only child, Sandy Gilbert told the judge he had raised the girl since she was 2 years old.
“Half of my life is gone,” Gilbert said. “I’ll never have grandchildren. I’ll never get to walk her down the aisle.”
Four other family members also testified at the hearing, holding back tears as they explained the impact of the sudden loss. They then joined other relatives in the audience, waiting for the moment when they would finally hear from the teen whose decision at 16 years old had brought them so much grief.
But that moment never came.
The teen, now 17, did not rise to address Whitley’s family. Instead, she sat in silence as her attorney William Alley apologized for her. He said that she feels sincere remorse for her actions and that she was not looking for a fight on the morning of March 22, 2016, when Whitley and his client got into a heated argument as they waited for a bus to school.
It was Whitley who instigated a verbal back-and-forth that morning, taunting the younger teen to fight, defense attorneys said at trial. The younger teen, who was six months pregnant at the time, was armed with a 3½-inch knife. By the time the altercation was over, Whitley was stabbed twice, dying soon after from a knife wound to her heart.
D.C. Superior Court Judge Kimberley Knowles sentenced the teen to remain under the care of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services until she turns 21, the maximum punishment allowable given the juvenile charges.
The teen, who has since given birth and is the mother of another child, will be allowed to see her children as she serves her sentence. She sat with her head down as Knowles explained how she arrived at the punishment.
“It’s a pure tragedy to me. So many lives have been affected — have been destroyed,” Knowles said, acknowledging the heartbreak caused to both families and to the community. Other students on their way to school witnessed the murder, the judge said.
She also said the teen had continued to make poor decisions since she was found guilty of second-degree murder last September. After the trial, the teen did not attend school consistently, went beyond court-ordered boundaries and allowed her monitoring device’s battery to die, Knowles said, prompting her removal from her home and placement in a shelter until sentencing.
“I can’t have another loss of judgment result in another loss of life,” Knowles said.
The Washington Post generally does not identify defendants charged in juvenile court. Court officials allowed The Post to cover the hearing — such hearings are usually closed to the public — on the condition that the name of the teen charged would not be revealed.
In court, Knowles recognized the teen’s right not to speak at the hearing but also said she was disappointed not to hear from her directly.
After the hearing, Whitley’s family echoed that frustration.
“The most disappointing thing was that she didn’t speak,” said Debra Whitley, the victim’s aunt.
Amanjanea Whitley’s relatives also expressed anger about the length of the teen’s sentence. During the hearing, the judge told the young mother that she was lucky not to be charged as an adult and that she could have faced years behind bars.
Whitley’s aunt said she appreciated the judge’s stern warning, but she said that the system had ultimately failed her niece’s memory.
“She gets to come home to her children,” Debra Whitley said of the defendant. “My niece didn’t get to have a child, nothing to linger on to carry her name.”