Judge holds Amber Hellesten for trial on murder charges, despite self-defense claim

Amber Hellesten. Credit: PPD Amber Hellesten. Credit: PPD

Amber Hellesten turns 16 next Wednesday, April 30. It could be her first of many birthdays behind bars.

Hellesten, 15, was held for court on third-degree murder charges after a preliminary hearing Tuesday, despite defense objections that she should be discharged because she allegedly was acting in self-defense when she fatally stabbed Azim Chaplin, 14, on Feb. 11. Chaplin died Feb. 16.

“She might have been okay in Florida, but we’re in Pennsylvania,” said Judge Joseph DeLeon during Hellesten’s preliminary hearing, referring to Florida’s “stand your ground” laws.

“It’s ‘stand your ground’ in Florida. In Pennsylvania, it’s third-degree [murder],” Judge DeLeon said, before ordering Hellesten held for trial.

But DeLeon seemed to side with defense attorney David Desiderio that victim Azim Chaplin, 14, and two friends were threatening Hellesten and her friend by following them, throwing snowballs, teasing them about their clothes, and eventually approaching them with sticks before Hellesten stabbed Chaplin. DeLeon called it “gang activity.”

Nate Wells, 14, a friend of the victim, testified that they and another boy were walking near 20th Street and Snyder Avenue when they saw Hellesten with a female friend and started teasing them.

“We was busting on them … about their clothes, their sneakers,” Wells said. “They was busting back … They never tried to run, said stop or anything.”

The boys followed the girls for five and a half blocks, he said.

Things turned violent after Hellesten told the boys she would get her brother to kill them, and Chaplin picked up a stick and walked towards her holding it high, Wells said. That’s when Hellesten shoved a knife into Chaplin’s chest.

“He’s there to hit her with a stick. She pulls out the one thing she has, a small pocket-knife. She swings it defensively, and he unfortunately dies,” Desiderio argued. “She has no recourse but to swing.”

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