A federal jury has recommended that three Somali pirates serve life sentences in prison for the 2011 killings of four Americans, including a Marina del Rey couple, whose vessel was hijacked while sailing off the coast of Africa.
A jury previously found Ahmed Muse Salad, 25, Abukar Osman Beyle, 20, and Shani Nurani Shiekh Abrar, 29, guilty of all 26 counts in connection with the hijacking, including piracy, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, hostage taking resulting in death, kidnapping resulting in death, and multiple firearms offenses, a U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesperson said.
Scott and Jean Adam, members of the Del Rey Yacht Club in Marina del Rey, and Phyllis Macay and Robert Riggle were fatally shot on Feb. 22, 2011 after their vessel Quest was seized by pirates while making a passage towards Oman in the Arabian Sea.
“Four Americans were taken hostage, terrorized and then murdered. Life in prison is reserved for those who commit heinous crimes – and the jury today decided the execution of four innocent Americans on the high seas meets that high bar,” said United States Attorney Neil H. MacBride.
“Scott Adam, Jean Adam, Phyllis Macay, and Robert Riggle lost their lives and their families lost their loved ones. Nothing can make this right; nothing can make their families whole again – but we hope today’s verdict and sentences will bring some closure to their nightmare that began two years ago on the Indian Ocean.”
Royce Curtin, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Norfolk field office, added, “This case exemplifies the ongoing, outstanding cooperation between federal law enforcement and federal prosecutors. Today’s sentencings should send a clear message to anyone committing acts of criminal violence against American citizens at sea that they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
The defendants were previously indicted on July 8, 2011, by a federal grand jury on the 26 counts.
According to court records and evidence at trial, after pirates gained control of the vessel and took the four American citizens as hostages, their plan was to take the hostages to Somalia, where they and their additional co-conspirators could claim a ransom.
Beginning on Feb. 19, 2011, communications had been established and the United States Navy and the FBI began negotiating with the pirates to secure the safe release of the hostages. But the negotiations reached an impasse when the co-conspirators were told that they were not going to be allowed to take the hostages ashore in Somalia, court records showed. The decision was made to detain the co-conspirators after they refused to release the hostages and threatened to kill them if they were not allowed to return to Somalia, according to court records.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesperson said witnesses testified that Salad, Beyle and Abrar were the shooters responsible for the deaths of the four Americans.