On a December night last year, just days before Christmas, Benjamin Burrell was walking from the parking lot to his Fairfield apartment carrying his dinner when he was shot and killed.
Fairfield detectives were faced with a real whodunit. 35-year-old Burrell was a manager at the Bridgewater Falls Old Navy store and had no criminal record. No illegal drugs were found with him or in his system. So who would want to kill him?
Answers came a few months later with the indictment of Bijan Michelangelo Jabbari, 24, who was in a Florida jail on other charges and has an extensive criminal drug record in Butler County. Turns out, Jabbari killed the wrong man.
In Butler County Common Pleas on Thursday, Jabbari pleaded guilty to murder with a one-year gun specification and was sentenced to life in prison with parole the eligibility after 16 years. Charges of aggravated robbery, felonious assault and having weapons under disability were dismissed.
At sentencing, Judge Keith Spaeth said told Jabbari that he took the life of a purely innocent victim who had done nothing wrong, nor had he placed himself in a criminal situation.
“I have sat through some sad sentencings and this is one of the most sad ones that I have been associated with. It is so tragic. Most people who are involved in drugs tend to hurt people who are also involved in drugs or involved with crime,” Spaeth said. “Mr. Jabbari stole a completely innocent and pure person’s life as a result of his actions and the decisions he made.”
Prosecutors said it comes down to the fact that Jabbari thought Burrell was somebody else and the person he thought he was may have had something that belonged to Jabbari — a backpack.
Burrell’s family told the judge about Benjamin and many letters from friends, family and coworkers were also sent to the Spaeth.
They were angry and grief-stricken, but also offered forgiveness as they stood a few feet away from Jabbari.
Paul Burrell, Benjamin’s father, said after the shock of learning their son was dead, they begin to learn there was no motive or reason.
“We came to find out Benjamin had not gotten into an altercation, he was not involved in any criminal activity. He was, in fact, senselessly shot and killed in front of his apartment returning home from work,” Paul Burrell said. “Our hearts are broken.”
The father read some comments from Benjamin’s friends recalling his work ethic and great sense of humor.
“Benjamin is gone from this world because of you and your actions.” Paul Burrell said. Then turning to the Jabbari, he said. “I forgive you for what you have done.”
Teresa Burrell, Benjamin’s mother said her son graduated from college with a degree in philosophy and stopped by the house often for dinner after work. She will never hear his voice again or have anymore photos of her “sweet” son she said.
“Benjamin’s death was senseless, she said. “Nothing is going to bring him back.”
“To the defendant, I don’t hate him, I don’t want him to burn in hell or rot in prison. What I do want is for him to be remorseful, repentant and to realize what he has done., what he has taken,” she said, urging Jabbari to grow up make better choices “I hope and I pray that he chooses better the Dec. 19, 2020.”
At the time of Jabbari’s indictment he was the DeSoto County, Fla., jail, where he had been booked on Dec. 30 for drug and weapons charges. Fairfield detectives were able to use jail recordings in Florida and the weapon Jabbari had at the time of his arrest to tie him to Burrell’s shooting, according to prosecutors.
Burrell’s family and the prosecutors commended Fairfield detectives for the investigation and solving the case.