A Massachusetts teenager who killed and beheaded his high school classmate in 2016 was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years.
Mathew Borges, 18, was convicted in May on a charge of first-degree murder with premeditation and extreme atrocity/cruelty. He will be eligible for parole because he was just 15 at the time of the crime. He had faced a minimum of 25 years in prison.
Borges killed his Lawrence High School classmate, 16-year-old Lee Manuel Viloria-Paulino, in November 2016. Viloria-Paulino's body was found along the banks of the Merrimack River by a dog-walker, with his head in a bag nearby. Investigators never recovered his hands.
Viloria-Paulino was "the soul of this family," his mother, Katiuska Paulino, testified at the sentencing. She said that his death, so close to Thanksgiving, means they will never be able to celebrate the holiday again.
She pushed for a life sentence, "so at the very least it serves to keep him off the streets. He should never have the opportunity to kill again, to rob another person of their life like did to Lee Manuel."
The judge said she took the brutality and premeditation of the killing into consideration when deciding the sentence, as well as the possibility of redemption and rehabilitation.
Borges didn't give a statement on his behalf before he was sentenced. His attorney, Ed Hayden, said afterward that Borges now "has a chance at turning his life around."
Borges was arrested in early December 2016.
Prosecutors said Borges was jealous that Viloria-Paulino had spent time with his girlfriend. A medical examiner testified that the victim was stabbed 76 times, including dozens of times after he was dead.
Borges' attorney argued that there was no physical evidence tying the teenager to the crime and that the prosecution's witnesses lied.
The trial lasted 10 days and the jury deliberated about nine hours. The victim's family sobbed as the guilty verdict was read, but Borges had no visible reaction.
"We felt happiness," one of Viloria-Paulino’s family members said leaving the courthouse in Salem afterward. They said the verdict would not bring the teenager back, but it did bring them peace.
Borges' attorney has said an appeal is planned. If the conviction is upheld, Borges will be in his 40s when he is eligible for parole.