Jury to decide on life or death sentence for mom’s boyfriend
to court to decide whether Sanel Saint-Simon should be sentenced to death or life in prison for the slaying of his girlfriend’s daughter, 16-year-old Alexandria Chery.
Alexandria Chery got off the bus at Olympia High School one day in 2014 crying, her former boyfriend Damian Thomas said in an Orange County courtroom on Monday.
Thomas asked her what was wrong, but she didn’t want to tell him. He kept asking, and a few days later she relented: Her mother’s boyfriend Sanel Saint-Simon, who had raised her since she was about 5, had touched her inappropriately.
The same jurors who in February convicted Saint-Simon of murdering 16-year-old Alexandria in 2014 returned to court Monday to decide whether SaintSimon should be sentenced to death or life in prison. They are expected to make the decision by the end of the week.
Prosecutors put Thomas, 19, on the stand to give a possible motive for Alexandria’s murder, and to try and prove it was cold, calculated and premeditated — reasons to recommend a death sentence, Assistant State Attorney Ryan Williams told jurors.
But Assistant Public Defender Erin Hyde said SaintSimon will be in prison for the rest of his life and asked that jurors spare him from an execution.
“You are not just applying to law, you are applying your own sense of mercy,” Hyde said.
The first phase of the trial took place in February. Jurors already heard how Alexandria was reported missing and how the teenager’s body was found in the woods near the Osceola-Polk county line.
They deliberated for 7½ hours before finding SaintSimon guilty of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and of lying to a lawenforcement officer investigating a missing-child case.
But on Monday, they heard more about Alexandria’s life from her family and friends, who read emotional victim impact statements explaining how her death affected them.
Alexandria’s best friend, Franchesca Cadet, said she would rather remember her friend as “the woman she was becoming.”
“I like to talk about the Alex with the beautiful smile, the outgoing personality,” she said. “They don’t talk about the girl who loved sweet tea, the girl who really thought ice cream was food, the girl who was so afraid of dogs but wanted one, the girl who made a joke out of anything. I think we laughed at