EVERETT — A Mukilteo man was sentenced to 35 years in prison Monday for murdering a man, in the second of a pair of torture killings.
Family of Ezekiel Kelly brought a poster-sized photo to the courtroom, showing their loved one in a purple dress shirt and tie, beside a colorful bouquet of flowers, in a white-cushioned casket.
Kelly, 22, of Everett, was a student.
He’d enrolled in a robotics program for people with autism at a local community college.
He had a young daughter.
Hassani was part of the group of people who abducted and tortured Kelly in early July of last year. Kelly was found dead at a vacant house along Beverly Park Road. He’d been stabbed 27 times. Brown packing tape was wrapped around his neck. He’d been shot three times in the head.
Hassani, now 21, fired those fatal shots.
The same gun had been used to kill Mohamed Adan days earlier, June 30, on the outskirts of Blue Stilly Park near Arlington.
Hassani’s friend Anthony Hernandez-Cano, 18, was sentenced to life in prison for both murders in October.
Both men held petty grudges against Adan, 21, of Seattle.
Hassani claimed Adan tried to kiss his girlfriend. Hernandez-Cano believed Adan “snitched” on him for violating a court order. Hassani helped his friend find Adan that day, but he did not get in the car driven by Hernandez-Cano’s girlfriend, Lendsay Meza, according to charging papers.
On a car ride to rural north Snohomish County, Hernandez-Cano beat him and burned him on the face with a lit cigarette.
“Finish him for me,” Hassani texted his friend, just before the fatal shots were fired. Hernandez-Cano shot him seven times.
He later came to suspect it was actually Kelly who reported him to police, according to court papers.
The defendants were drinking and smoking on July 2, when Hernandez-Cano mentioned they should “go look for E,” meaning Ezekiel Kelly.
They found him in front of a pizza restaurant and ordered him to get in the car. Kelly obeyed. Hassani, Hernandez-Cano and Meza took him to a forested area, beat him with a baseball bat and got back in the Saturn, according to the charges.
The two men sandwiched Kelly in the back seat. Hernandez-Cano used Hassani’s dagger to stab Kelly over and over. They took him to the empty house, where Hernandez-Cano handed his gun over to Hassani and told him to shoot.
In an interview with detectives, Hassani said he did it because he wanted to be “cool” and “tough” like Hernandez-Cano.
“‘Cause he’s always talking about he did this and this, and I never did anything like it,” he said, according to court papers.
Hassani pleaded guilty in February to first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping.
Both convictions were for Kelly’s death.
The alleged driver, Meza, was charged with aggravated murder. She’s awaiting trial.
Deputy prosecutor Craig Matheson told the court Monday that Hernandez-Cano — who is “truly a monster” — had been behind both murders.
“Mr. Hassani jumped in and did his part,” he said. “There is absolutely no doubt about that.”
Ezekiel’s mother, LaTonage Kelly, fought past tears in court Monday, as she tried to put into words the pain of the loss of her only child.
It’s not fair, she said, that Kelly’s daughter will grow up without a father.
“Your family will be able to see you whenever,” she told Hassani. “We’ll have to go to the grave site to talk to (our son).”
Hassani was born in a refugee camp in Kenya. He later immigrated to the United States. The public defender, Donald Wackerman, said his youth had been marked by trauma.
Superior Court Judge Janice Ellis said while he may have faced difficulties, every school child knows not to take another human’s life.
The judge had read through a stack of letters from Kelly’s family, friends and mentors.
“Mr. Hassani, I don’t know if you’ve read these letters,” Ellis said.
“Yes, ma’am, I have,” Hassani replied.
“They reflect the unfathomable burden that you have placed on them by taking Mr. Kelly away, brutally, impetuously, maliciously — and leaving in the wake of your decision, this lifelong grief,” Ellis said.
The judge had looked through many photos, too, that the family shared of Kelly’s life.
“One of the most beautiful ones of your son was a picture of him with his baby girl,” Ellis said. “He looks like a very happy dad in that picture, and I hope you all have many more pictures like that, to carry with you.”
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snocaleb.