A man who, as a 16-year-old, conspired in the robbery and murder of Ray Diener 10½ years ago has a chance for parole – but not for another 20 years.
Emru Kebede was convicted at trial in 2009 of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison for his role in the May 2, 2007, killing of Diener.
Kebede was 16 when he was part of a robbery plot that ended with Diener’s murder on his front porch in West Donegal Township.
Three other men were charged and convicted, included Abraham Sanchez, who was sentenced to death for torturing Diener before shooting him.
Kebede, now 27, was in Lancaster County Court Wednesday for a re-sentencing hearing due to a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision that deemed life sentences against juveniles “unconstitutional.”
At the end of a three-hour hearing, Lancaster County President Judge Dennis Reinaker sentenced Kebede to 30 years to life.
Having already served about 10½ years, Kebede would be eligible for a parole hearing in 2037.
President Judge Reinaker, while ordering sentence, said he found differences in Kebede’s case compared to other re-sentencings he has recently ordered, including:
- Kebede’s positive upbringing and strong support system;
- The crime was more recent (2007) than any of the other cases;
- The circumstances of the crime – a confrontation and killing at Diener’s home - were “particularly troubling.”
First Assistant District Attorney Christopher P. Larsen asked for at least a 30-year minimum, arguing that while Sanchez was the shooter, Kebede played an active role, standing within three feet of Diener during the confrontation.
Also, Larsen argued, Kebede and the other defendants, all wore gloves for the crime, but no masks - indicating they did not want to leave fingerprints or a living witness.
The defendants chose Diener’s home after seeing him through an illuminated window.
“They saw him through the window. They targeted Mr. Diener,” Larsen said. “They knew they were going to encounter him.”
Diener’s sisters both provided testimony about their father and mother, Barbara, who died in 2015. During the robbery, Barbara Diener opened the front door and saw her husband and the defendants on the porch.
“I think of my father, Ray Diener, every day,” Sharon Taraschi said. “The injustice my mother and father were dealt is incomprehensible.”
Susan Diener described her father as a “larger than life figure,” both literally and figuratively. (Ray Diener was 6-foot-4.)
“Ray was an apt name for a man who radiated warmth,” Susan Diener said. “He was the most gentle and sensitive of men.”
Upon hearing President Judge Reinaker’s sentence, Diener’s daughters embraced and wiped away tears.
Kebede testified for about 30 minutes about courses he has taken and jobs he has held while an inmate.
The courtroom gallery was filled with supporters – Larsen noted it was perhaps the most support for a defendant he has ever seen at a sentencing hearing.
Despite all that support, Larsen told the judge, Kebede still chose a criminal lifestyle.
Kebede is the last of 12 inmates – previously serving life for killings they committed as juveniles in Lancaster County – to be re-sentenced.
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