Wednesday, August 15, 2007

State seeking death in case of man charged death of Palm Beach Gardens teen

By Nancy L. Othón South Florida Sun-Sentinel
August 15, 2007

Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty against a man accused of strangling an 18-year-old Palm Beach Gardens softball player, according to court documents filed Tuesday.Jason Shenfeld, 26, of Palm Beach Gardens, is charged with first-degree murder as well as kidnapping and three counts of sexual battery in the July 20 death of Amanda Buckley.Shenfeld's father found Buckley's body covered with pillows and blankets in his son's bedroom closet and notified authorities. Shenfeld told his father that Buckley had died from a drug overdose, but investigators and autopsy findings concluded she had been beaten, sexually assaulted and strangled.

Florida law allows prosecutors to seek the death penalty under certain circumstances. In this case, as with every case in which the death penalty is considered, the state attorney's capital-review committee looked at all of the factors, Assistant State Attorney Kirk Volker said."In this case, because the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating circumstances, we decided to seek death," Volker said. "An example of an aggravated circumstance might be that the homicide was committed in a heinous, atrocious or cruel manner."In previous cases, appeals courts have ruled that strangulation can be considered heinous and cruel, Volker said."It's basically where the person realizes that they are going to be murdered before they die," he said. "They're living through the taking of their life, so to speak, so it becomes a cruel murder."

Shenfeld has entered a not-guilty plea. He also is facing a probation violation charge for being arrested while on five-year probation from a robbery conviction.Shenfeld's attorneys could not be reached for comment, despite attempts by phone.The State Attorney's Office previously dropped sexual battery charges against Shenfeld in a separate case, in which two women accused him of raping them at his home in November.

Prosecutors cited conflicting evidence in their decision to not pursue the case.In that case, the women alleged they had been bound with duct tape and ordered to perform sexual acts at knifepoint.Search warrants filed in the murder case show duct tape was found entangled in Buckley's hair and detectives recovered a matching roll of tape and a blue-and-white rope.Court documents also show that in a search of a safe inside Shenfeld's closet, detectives found drug paraphernalia, bullets and various pornographic videos with violence in their titles, including Bound for Brutality 2.

Nancy Othón can be reached at or 561-228-5502.

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