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Antonio Christian gets life without parole in beating death

Antonio Christian, 28, of Roosevelt, was sentenced Wednesday,

Antonio Christian, 28, of Roosevelt, was sentenced Wednesday, June 1, 2016, to life in prison without parole in the 2013 beating death of his girlfriend's mother, Saundra Simonée, 59, of East Norwich. Credit: SCDA

A Roosevelt man convicted of beating his girlfriend’s mother to death with a hammer was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without parole for the “heinous” crime.

Antonio Christian, 29, insisted he didn’t kill the educator.

“I still maintain my innocence,” he said, before apologizing to the victim’s son, who cursed at Christian in response.

A Suffolk jury convicted Christian in April of first-degree murder in the 2013 slaying of Saundra Simonée, 59.

Christian’s girlfriend, Shatura Simonée, 29, testified that he killed her mother.

Prosecutors said Christian first punched Saundra Simonée, breaking her jaw. Then he tortured her inside her East Norwich home the morning of Sept. 26, 2013 until she gave up her debit card and PIN.

When she did, he killed her with the hammer, prosecutors said. They said he dumped her body in Bay Shore and used her card to steal money and buy a PlayStation 3.

During his sentencing, Christian told State Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen in Riverhead that he was “deeply saddened” by Simonée’s death. But he insisted he didn’t kill her.

The judge noted Christian’s “lack of remorse” as a factor in handing down the maximum sentence.

Cohen said Christian, whose record includes convictions for assault, theft and felony attempted criminal possession of a weapon, has shown that “he’s never been a productive member of society.”

He called the killing “gruesome, heinous and cold-blooded” and hailed the victim as someone who “cared for society by teaching at BOCES for more than 30 years.”

“The extreme nature of the crime calls for the consideration of extreme punishment,” he said before sentencing Christian.

Christian showed no emotion as the sentence was imposed.

During the trial, the prosecution had relied on testimony of Shatura Simonée, who lived with her mother.

After telling numerous versions of how her mother ended up with a crushed skull, she ultimately testified that Christian killed her with a hammer. She is expected to be sentenced June 17 to 6 to 18 years in prison after pleading guilty to criminal facilitation and hindering prosecution.

Assistant District Attorney Laura Newcombe, who sought life without parole, said Christian “is not fit for society.”

“There is an utter brutality to this crime,” she told the judge.

Newcombe said Saundra Simonée taught cosmetology at BOCES, where she usually sang the national anthem at graduations. She had recently gotten her doctorate and looked forward to working in administration.

Defense attorney Steven Wilutis of Miller Place recommended a sentence of 20 to 25 years to life.

Wilutis said Christian was “born to parents who didn’t take care of him” and was raised in shelters and foster homes in Georgia.

“He has no real skills — working skills, no education,” Wilutis said.

The attorney said he plans to appeal the sentence.

With Gary Dymski

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