The two men pleaded guilty in November to killing Reese during the course of a robbery.
Brewer was sentenced to 27 years and 8 months in prison; Page was sentenced to 31 years in prison.
Addressing Brewer, Judge Herbert Dixon said, “You didn’t pull the trigger, and if this was your first offense that might have meant a lot in sentencing, but right now it doesn’t mean a whole lot to me.”
Brewer has been arrested 10 times and convicted of three crimes, according to court records.
Erica Reese, Reese’s wife, wept openly throughout both sentencings. Her husband was known as “the cigarette man” because he was known to sell cigarettes out of his apartment to supplement his retirement, she said.
It was for this reason that Brewer, Page, and another man, Anthony Thomas, invaded Reese’s home in a robbery on June 27, 2011, court documents state. But that robbery was interrupted when Erica Reese returned to the apartment from taking out the trash.
When she started screaming the men put a blanket in her mouth to silence her, and when Mr. Reese attempted to protect her Page shot him four times point blank, killing him. Security cameras show three men leaving with two duffle bags filled with cigarettes and a few certified checks.
Police found Erica Reese on the floor, distraught, and Solomon Reese in the doorway, dead.
“They took him from me,” she said Friday at the sentencing. “I am alone here in this world.”
Brewer appeared affected by her words.
“I stay up at night and all I can see is his face,” he said.
“There’s a lot that I could say to you that wouldn’t make any difference,” said Brewer. “I would do anything to take it back.”
“Just think what would have happened if you had just said no, and that they were dumb,” said Dixon.
Page apologized for his actions. When Dixon asked him to think about what he had done, Page said, “That could have been my grandfather, sir.”
“Yes, indeed,” said Dixon. “He could have been.”
A press release from the US Attorney’s Office is below. Sentencing documents have been added below the press release.
Two District Men Plead Guilty to 2011 Murder
Of Retired Vietnam Veteran in Southeast Washington
-Victim, 71, Was Slain in His Apartment After Trying to Protect His Wife-
WASHINGTON- James Brewer, 27, and Stephen Page, 20, of Washington, D.C., have pled guilty to charges of second-degree murder while armed in the 2011 slaying of a 71-year-old man in Southeast Washington, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. announced today.
Both men entered the guilty pleas on Nov. 13, 2013, in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. The Honorable Herbert B. Dixon, Jr. scheduled sentencing for Jan. 10, 2014.
According to a proffer of facts presented during the plea hearing, on June 27, 2011, at about 9:15 p.m., Brewer, Page, Anthony Thomas, and a fourth man walked into an apartment building in the 2300 block of Good Hope Road SE. They entered the front lobby and gathered at the elevator. Then they took the elevator to the seventh floor.
Minutes later, Brewer, Page and Thomas entered the apartment of Solomon Reese, 71, a Vietnam veteran who supplemented his retirement income by selling cigarettes to neighbors in the area. Mr. Reese was known by many neighbors as the “cigarette man.”
While the men were inside, Mr. Reese’s wife, meanwhile, returned to the apartment from the building’s trash room. Upon hearing scuffling, she began to scream. At that point, Brewer pulled her inside the apartment and threw her toward the front room sofa. Then, as she continued to scream, Thomas placed a blanket over her mouth. Mr. Reese, who initially struggled with Page over a pistol that Page was holding, grabbed Thomas. Page warned him to let go. Then, when Mr. Reese reached into his pocket, Page shot him several times.
Brewer, Page and Thomas left the apartment, taking two bags containing cigarettes and travelers’ checks. Mr. Reese was taken to a hospital, where he died from his injuries. He had been shot multiple times, with bullets hitting him in the chest, abdomen and thigh.
Detectives with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) obtained surveillance video showing Brewer, Page, Thomas, and the fourth man entering the building and getting onto the elevator. Footage from approximately seven minutes later showed Brewer, Page and Thomas moving quickly out of the stairwell on the basement level, with Brewer carrying two bags.
On July 14, 2011, the U.S. Marshals Service arrested Brewer in Newport News, Va., and transported him to the District of Columbia for presentment on a charge of first-degree murder while armed. While awaiting presentment in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, Brewer switched armbands with another arrestee and pretended to be that person. He then signed release papers under that arrestee’s name and left the courthouse. Marshals discovered the ruse and searched for Brewer, who surrendered the following day.
Thomas, 25, earlier pled guilty to a charge of voluntary manslaughter while armed and is awaiting sentencing.
In announcing the pleas, U.S. Attorney Machen praised the work of the MPD detectives, officers, crime scene technicians, and forensic specialists who worked on the case. He also expressed appreciation for the assistance provided by the U.S. Marshals Service. In addition, he praised those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Paralegal Specialist Alesha Matthews Yette; Litigation Technology Specialists Kimberly Smith, Leif Hickling, and Joshua Ellen; Jelahn Stewart, chief of the Victim Witness Assistance Unit, and Victim/Witness staff members Maria Shumar, Marcia Rinker, Michael Hailey, Katina Adams-Washington, M. Laverne Forrest, Tanya Via, and David Foster. Finally, he commended the efforts of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gary Wheeler, and Scott Sroka, who secured the indictment in the case and handled the prosecution which led to the plea.