The man who fatally stabbed his half brother 22 times in a field on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation got 25 years in prison Thursday.
The victim’s former girlfriend who planned the attack after he broke up with her got one to three years last week.
The family of Jesse Seneca doesn’t think either sentence is fair.
They are upset that Cody R. Testerman couldn’t be sentenced to life in prison for killing the 20-year-old victim on July 11, 2012, then burying his body under some brush.
The 25-year prison term was the maximum for Testerman’s guilty plea to first-degree manslaughter, but he was originally charged with second-degree murder, which carries a maximum of 25 years to life.
The family is even more upset with the sentence for Seneca’s former girlfriend, who pleaded guilty to planning the attack and then trying to cover it up.
The girlfriend, described by Testerman’s attorney as the mastermind who concocted the plan to kill Seneca after he broke up with her, was given youthful offender status because she was 18 at the time of the slaying.
As a result, she faced a maximum of 16 months to four years in prison instead of 8½ to 25 years had she been sentenced as an adult for conspiracy and hindering prosecution.
“This little girl got away with her hands slapped,” said Robin Seneca, the victim’s mother, referring to the sentence given on April 9 by State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang. “She did all this, and she got youth offender status for my kid getting stabbed 22 times.”
“There’s no justice,” she added outside the courtroom after Testerman’s sentencing. “We’re grieving, and we lost someone dear and precious and loved and treasured.”
Neasa Seneca, Jesse Seneca’s sister, also was upset about the girlfriend’s sentence. She said the girl lured Testerman into attacking her former boyfriend. “She took advantage of Cody and pushed him to murder Jesse,” she said outside the courtroom. “If she hadn’t done that, Jesse would still be alive today.”
At sentencing, Testerman, 23, apologized to Seneca’s family and friends who were in the courtroom. Many of them wore white T-shirts that had Seneca’s photo on it and the words, “Justice for Jess.”
“It’s an understatement to say I’m sorry,” Testerman told them. “I know I don’t deserve forgiveness. What I did was wrong, I can’t rectify anything. Everything I said and every letter I wrote to you is the most honest I can be. I don’t know what more to say than I’m sorry.”
“Why’d you do it, Cody?” someone in the courtroom audience asked.
“I was just sick and tired of being alone,” he said. “I hated being used. I had no friends. I didn’t feel loved by my own family.”
Testerman’s apology to the family meant nothing to them, Neasa Seneca told State Supreme Court Justice M. William Boller.
“He says he knows what he did was wrong and he feels remorse,” she said. “That’s a lie.
“We loved Jesse, and he took him away from us,” she added.
Defense attorney Andrew LoTempio called the case one of the most bizarre he has handled.
He described his client as a soft-spoken, gentle man who was seduced by Seneca’s former girlfriend, whom he described as a Delilah, after Seneca broke up with her.
LoTempio said she convinced Testerman that she was madly in love with him, and she set up a meeting for her and Testerman with Seneca at his home the night before he was killed to confront Seneca about what she alleged was his mistreatment of her.
LoTempio said she picked a fight with Seneca, who heaped verbal abuse on her. She accused Seneca of beating her, an accusation that the attorney said was not true.
“She convinced Testerman that he should beat up Seneca,” LoTempio said.
Testerman then took Seneca to a field where the attorney said he got carried away and stabbed Seneca.
After the attack, Testerman returned to Seneca’s home and the girlfriend helped him move the body and cover it with brush, according to prosecutors.
The body was found a few days later, after Seneca’s family reported him missing. Testerman was arrested a week later.
The former girlfriend lied to authorities and Seneca’s family about what had happened to Seneca. She moved to Arizona, where she was arrested and returned to Buffalo in December after she was indicted.
LoTempio said a 25-year prison term for Testerman would be excessive, pointing out that the mastermind in the fatal attack received only one to three years in prison.
The judge took note of LoTempio’s comments before sentencing Testerman.
“Your attorney says you don’t deserve a 25-year sentence,” Boller said. “Killing your half brother and causing pain to your family, I believe you deserve 25 years.”
“It’s not 25 years to life,” he added. “There’s light at the end of the tunnel, something your victim doesn’t have.”