Officer's Killer, 17, Gets Life In Prison

Posted: March 19, 1988

A defiant Steven Amos, vowing to appeal his "unfair and unjust trial," was sentenced yesterday to life in prison for the May 15 stabbing murder of Pennsauken police Officer William Brey.

In a Camden courtroom packed with police officers and friends of the Brey family, Superior Court Judge E. Stevenson Fluharty ordered Amos, who will be 18 tomorrow, to spend at least the next 33 years in prison without parole.

Fluharty also imposed a $10,000 violent-crime penalty, a sentence termed unusual by both prosecutors and defense attorneys. Amos, who would earn anywhere from $1.25 to $3 a day for work he would do in prison, must pay off the entire amount before he can be paroled. Most defendants are required to pay only the minimum $30 penalty.

"My husband has been viciously taken away from me, and Pennsauken has lost a very fine officer," the officer's widow, Loretta Brey, said in court yesterday, weeping as she urged Fluharty to apply the maximum penalty. Pamela Gleason, the widow of Philadelphia police Officer Daniel Gleason, who was shot to death while on duty in June 1986, sat near Loretta Brey to offer support.

On May 15, Patrolman Brey, 33, answered a call to quiet an out-of-control drinking party at the Amos home in the 1900 block of 46th Street in the township.

As horrified neighbors watched, a raging Steven Amos plunged a switch-blade knife into the officer again and again. Only minutes after arriving at the scene, Brey was bleeding to death from nine stab wounds to his heart, liver, neck and arms.

After he was stabbed, a weakened Brey, murmuring "freeze, freeze," fired two shots. One killed Richard Amos, 15, the brother of Steven. The other grazed Steven Amos' arm and lodged in his side.

In its verdict Feb. 3, the jury showed that it did not believe Amos' version of the events of May 15. Steven Amos had testified that his brother answered Brey's knock at the door while he waited upstairs. Then, according to his testimony, he heard something that sounded like a gunshot; he then flipped open his knife and rushed downstairs.

"I saw blood on my brother and on the floor," Steven Amos testified. "At that point, I rushed in and stabbed the officer."

Yesterday, Amos told the judge that he would fight to prove that his brother had been unfairly killed by Brey.

Steven Amos "is the sole reason his brother was killed, and maybe he doesn't want to admit that fact," Fluharty said during sentencing.

Amos' attorney, Harold Katz, urged the judge not to impose a harsh sentence. "Even a well-adjusted person who had been through what Steven Amos had been through and seen his brother killed - even a well-adjusted person would feel anger," Katz said.

Katz, who argued that Amos was intoxicated at the time of the incident, said his client is a "troubled youth. I can't help but ask: Where was his school? Where was the juvenile-court system? And where was the community?"

Janet Amos, the mother, said yesterday that she was not surprised by the sentence. "It's what I expected it to be," she said.

In a letter to the judge addressed March 15, Janet Amos wrote, "On May 15, 1987, a great tragedy occurred which ended by taking two lives, and one remained. This has been such a heartbreaking experience for all concerned.

"As Steven's mother and the one who truly knows him, I feel with all my being that this was not a callous premeditated murder out of hatred for policemen as prosecutor Mr. Wixted is claiming."

But county First Assistant Prosecutor Dennis G. Wixted stood firm in his position that Steven Amos deserved the maximum penalty for callously killing a police officer. He urged Fluharty to "crush him beneath the weight of the law; let him feel the naked power of the law."

The death penalty was not considered because of Amos' legal status as a juvenile.

On the murder count, Fluharty imposed the required penalty - a sentence of life in prison, with 30 years to be served before the possibility of parole. Consecutive to that, the judge imposed an 18-month sentence for possession of a knife for an unlawful purpose. Amos must serve nine of those months before the possibility of parole.

Amos also must serve at least 2 1/2 years of an additional consecutive sentence of five years for hindering apprehension. The jury found that Amos had run away from the crime scene and had concealed the knife used to stab Brey.

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