EVERETT — A Mukilteo woman must serve a year in prison for helping conceal evidence in a pair of torture murders in 2018, a Snohomish County judge ruled this week.
Anika St. Mary, 21, was the final defendant charged in the killings of Mohamed Adan, 21, and Ezekiel Kelly, 22, whose bodies were discovered in early July 2018. St. Mary helped clean blood from the back of a Saturn sedan, where both young men were tortured in separate abductions hours apart.
Yet St. Mary “acted shocked” when detectives told her Kelly was dead, and she asserted that her then-boyfriend, Hassani Hassani, had been home the entire night of July 2, when in truth her boyfriend and his friend, Anthony Hernandez-Cano, kidnapped and murdered Kelly, according to charging papers.
St. Mary’s plea deal called for no prison time if she served what’s known as a parenting sentencing alternative. She is the mother of two young children.
Snohomish County Superior Court Judge George Appel rejected the agreement, citing the defendant’s troubling “lack of insight” about herself, while noting she reportedly gave up the primary caretaker role for her second child within days of birth in 2020.
Adan and Kelly were killed “for reasons that do not make sense even at this juncture,” prosecutors wrote in sentencing papers filed in February. The killers accused both Adan and Kelly of acting in an “inappropriate” way toward Hernandez-Cano’s girlfriend, Lendsay Meza, court papers say.
Meza and Hernandez-Cano abducted Adan first. She drove toward Arlington as he tortured Adan in the back seat. Hernandez-Cano beat Adan, burned him with a cigarette and then shot him to death at Blue Stilly Park. He was egged on to “finish him” in a text from Hassani. Passersby discovered Adan’s body July 1.
Two days later, a person walking a dog found Kelly’s body in a derelict house in Mukilteo. Detectives learned he’d been beaten with a baseball bat in the woods, stabbed dozens of times in the back seat, and shot in the head at the house. Hassani admitted to firing the fatal bullets, saying he wanted to seem tough like his friend, according to court papers.
Kelly, a new father who went by “Ezzy,” or just E, grew up with autism and sensory issues. He had a knack for technology, and he’d just applied for a robotics program at a local community college. His family said in life he made “no enemies.”
In the hours after he was killed, security cameras showed all four defendants outside a car near the B Building of the Vantage Apartments, off Mukilteo Speedway. The back of the Saturn was stained with Kelly’s blood.
“The video specifically appears to show defendant St. Mary and Hassani exit the car, enter the stairwell, and ultimately return with what appears to be cleaning supplies,” wrote deputy prosecutor Craig Matheson.
Investigators found more security footage from an Arlington fire station, showing the same Saturn and its license plate around the time and place of Adan’s murder.
Police interviewed St. Mary twice in July 2018. She denied having any part in the murders or the botched cover-up. In the second interview, she claimed Hassani snuck out of the apartment on the night of Kelly’s death. Police confronted her with the apartment security footage on Aug. 1, 2018. She refused to watch. The cover-up wasn’t effective. Forensic experts still found blood in the car that was an apparent match for Kelly.
Prosecutors held off on filing formal charges against St. Mary until September 2020. She pleaded guilty at her arraignment to first-degree rendering criminal assistance.
In the meantime, Hernandez-Cano began serving a life sentence for two counts of aggravated murder in the first degree.
St. Mary’s then-boyfriend, Hassani Hassani, 22, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder with a firearm and first-degree kidnapping. A Snohomish County judge sentenced him to 35 years behind bars.
Meza took her case to trial. A jury found her guilty of two counts of first-degree murder. A judge sentenced her last May to 50 years in prison.
St. Mary faced a sentence of 12 to 14 months in a state prison, if denied the sentencing alternative.
Matheson said that, in spite of the horror of what happened, St. Mary was “by far the least culpable, both legally and morally.”
The prosecutor’s office agreed to recommend keeping her out of prison, but only if the state Department of Corrections evaluated her and found her to be a good fit for the alternative program. The DOC report concluded St. Mary technically qualified under the law but that she would not be a “suitable candidate,” in part because a learning disability would make it hard for her to keep up with requirements of the program, such as a daily reading schedule and a distraction-free meal time with the children.
”Essentially,” the report said, “it would be setting Ms. St. Mary up for failure.”
Corrections noted she gave up her second child to a paternal grandmother within two days of birth.
On Monday in court, St. Mary heard from Kelly’s parents over a video call. St. Mary covered her eyes with one hand, doubled over in her seat, cried, whimpered and shook her head slightly as LaTonage Kelly explained what had been taken from her family and from Ezekiel Kelly’s young daughter.
“She is now serving a death sentence, without having her father in her life,” Ezekiel’s mother said.
In the view of the Kelly family, she added, St. Mary might as well have committed the murders: She cleaned up their slain son’s blood and failed to report what she knew.
St. Mary’s defense attorney, Samantha Sommerman, spoke over her client sobbing.
“If any small bit of good is to come out of this horrific situation, it would be that this next generation of children would have the support to escape these cycles of violence,” Sommerman said.
The defense argued the crime was a moment of weakness for St. Mary, but she was also acting out of fear, obeying someone she knew to be a killer.
Judge Appel did not accept defense arguments that St. Mary had made genuine progress in recent months in recognizing the damage she’d done. He rejected the alternative sentence.
“Everything up to a point suggests nothing to commend her: no moral compass, no moral anchors,” the judge said. “The defendant has been moving and acting in response to the currents around her, but taking no initiative to do what is right — doesn’t even appear to know what is right.”
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snocaleb.