Las Vegas Sun

September 30, 2014

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Thrill killer Amati awaits his fate

The jury that convicted Tony Amati of what police call a thrill killing will begin Tuesday to consider whether the 22-year-old will live or die.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, but Amati also could receive a life prison term with or without the possibility of parole after 40 years.

Amati was convicted Friday of participating in the 1996 slaying of 22-year-old Keith Dyer, a Pizza Hut worker who was walking a fellow employee to her home near UNLV.

Amati also was convicted of attempted murder for the shooting of Dyer's friend, Stacie Dooley, who was hit in the leg by a single bullet. For that crime, District Judge Joseph Bonaventure is expected to impose a sentence of up to 8 to 20 years.

But the jury acquitted Amati of murder charges in two other slayings in the same area.

The three slayings of apparently random victims occurred over a four-month period.

Dooley and other witnesses told of seeing three masked men dressed in black at the murder scene, but none could positively identify the men.

In addition, according to evidence during the trial, the same weapons were involved.

One of those weapons -- a 9mm semi-automatic pistol -- was found in Amati's nightstand when his home on Tropicana Avenue was searched by police who had arranged to buy guns from the defendant and two of his friends.

Those friends, Troy Sampson, 27, and Edward James, 23, also were charged in the three murders, but prosecutors dropped charges against them because of a lack of evidence.

That wasn't the case with Amati, whose blood was found along the escape route taken by the killers after Dyer was shot.

Amati took the witness stand in his own defense and admitted he was there, but he denied firing any of the numerous shots that police said amounted to "overkill."

He said he was "shocked" when Sampson and James pulled their guns and began shooting and explained that he cut his hand on a car bumper while fleeing in panic.

Amati also explained that he and his cohorts were dressed in masks and black clothing because they were on their way to scout a Radio Shack store for a later burglary.

Amati admitted to jurors that he was a burglar who was responsible for the May 1996 theft of more than 60 guns from Master Shooter's Supply on West Sahara Avenue.

The theft occurred the day before Michael Matta, 27, died in a hail of bullets as he rummaged through a dumpster near Hacienda Avenue and Maryland Parkway.

The third incident was on July 28, 1996, when John Garcia, 48, was shot in the head in his garage at 5147 Greene Lane, near Tropicana Avenue and Maryland Parkway.

It wasn't until Oct. 3, 1996, that gang detectives said they bought guns from Tony Amati, Sampson and James that later were determined to include the murder weapons.

Amati fled Las Vegas when it became clear he was being targeted in the murders and eventually made his way to the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list as he traveled around the country using false identifications.

He was arrested in Marietta, Ga., in February 1998 on a tip after a story on his case was broadcast on the syndicated television show "America's Most Wanted."

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