She was only 17 years old in 1983 when, prosecutors say, Saundra Adams and at least one other accomplice broke into her elderly neighbor's home. He was strangled with his own neckties. Many years later, after becoming a local librarian and a mother of two, Adams was sentenced in State Supreme Court for her admitted role in the long-ago tragedy.
Justice Christopher Burns sentenced Adams to seven to 21 years in prison. In September, just as jury selection was beginning in her trial, she pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter.
Adams admitted to taking part in a 1983 midnight break-in of Edmund Schreiber's home on Hastings Avenue in Buffalo. According to prosecutors, she and two accomplices were in search of money but the accomplices, who were not identified, tied him up. After pulling out some of Schreiber's neckties, Adams left the house.
Schreiber, who was 92 years old, was later found strangled with those ties.
Adams softly expressed her apologies to the courtroom, which was occupied by members of her own family and relatives of Schreiber.
"If I could do it over, I wouldn't have been there," she said. "I made a bad choice and I tried to get my life right since then."
Assistant Erie County District Attorney Eugene Partridge, though, told the court the defendant knew what she was getting into.
"She admitted, as part of her guilty plea, that she intended to cause him serious physical injury," Partridge said. "This isn't a case where she went in there not wanting to hurt anybody or not knowing what was going to happen. By her own admission, she did this with the attempt to hurt him. Her neighbor. A man she knew was vulnerable."
Partridge described Schreiber as a man who grew up in an orphanage, who served in World War One and participated in the Second Battle of the Marne. He suffered machine gun wounds in both legs and was later awarded the Purple Heart. After the war, he lived quietly in Buffalo and raised a family.
Defense attorney Daniel Grasso asked the judge to grant youthful offender status for his client, given her age at the time of the crime, and urged mercy in sentencing.
"The police, the investigation and everything that came from their case indicates that my client was the least culpable," Grasso said. "Obviously it's tragic. And obviously we're asking the court for a lot to consider 'youthful offender.' But when mercy is given, it's never in small measures."
Judge Burns, though, ruled it wasn't appropriate for this case.
"It is true that the defendant was 17 at the time and was not the only participant in this crime and in fairness was probably the third most culpable here," Burns said. "But still, Ms. Adams, you are culpable for this. The mitigating factors are greatly outweighed by the cruelty inflicted on this honorable man."
The victim's granddaughter, Tracie Noll, spoke in court on behalf of the family. She spoke of the last time seeing her loved one alive, at her Angola home during her daughter's first birthday party. He was murdered just days later.
Noll explained how her father was never the same after the murder and how several relatives have since passed away, before Adams admitted to the crime, not having any sense of closure.
"Ms. Adams not only murdered our grandfather, her actions dramatically changed our family," said Noll. "If the intent was to rob my grandpa, they could have done it any day during the week when he routinely went to the senior center for lunch."