A 21-year-old Delaware County man was sentenced on Tuesday to life in prison with no chance of parole for 18 years in the drive-by shooting death of a 19-year-old Ethiopian immigrant.
Anthony M. Monaco, formerly of Perennial Lane in Liberty Township, pleaded guilty to murder with a gun in the death of Dinkisra Mengistu, who was shot in the head in the parking lot of a Far North Side hotel on March 9, 2014.
Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Michael J. Holbrook imposed the mandatory sentence of 15 years to life for murder, plus three years for using a gun.
Monaco, who was 19 at the time of the shooting, agreed to plead guilty as attorneys were preparing to begin choosing a jury in his trial. He responded with a lengthy pause and a series of sighs when the judge asked if he wanted to plead guilty. Finally, he said, “Yes, your honor.”
As part of the plea agreement, the prosecutor’s office dropped multiple counts of attempted murder and felonious assault, as well as a drive-by-shooting specification.
Mengistu’s family moved to the United States when he was in middle school. He was a 2012 graduate of Westerville South High School.
Feven Mengistu, one of his two sisters, told the judge that the family moved to America “ thinking we have the best future. … I never thought this would happen to him.”
She sobbed at the conclusion of her statement, saying, “His loss is a pain every day.”
The reason for the shooting remains unclear, Assistant County Prosecutor Mark Wodarcyk told the judge. He said Monaco and Mengistu didn’t know each other but had attended the same party with separate groups of young people at Sheraton Suites Columbus on Hutchison Avenue in the Crosswoods development.
There was no known conflict between the groups; they left the party at the same time and got into separate vehicles, Wodarcyk said. As they drove out of the parking lot just after midnight, Monaco fired a handgun from the back seat of a Jeep Cherokee into an Oldsmobile Cutlass. One of the shots struck Mengistu in the head, killing him instantly.
Monaco told police that he fired a gun, but that another person in the backseat of the Jeep fired, as well. Everyone else who was riding in the Jeep said Monaco was the only shooter, Wodarcyk said.
Even if the fatal shot were fired by someone else, Monaco’s admission makes him equally responsible for the death, Wodarcyk said.
Police found a gun that matched a projectile and shell casings from the shooting in a safe in Monaco’s grandmother’s house. DNA on the gun was a match for another occupant of the Jeep, who said he had handled the gun at a shooting range, Wodarcyk said.
Defense attorney Larry Thomas said Monaco had never been in trouble and “a lot of this was for the protection of someone else.”
Monaco offered his condolences in court to the victim’s mother, father and sisters.
“It’s sad I can’t get the right person who did this,” he said.