Nathanael Genao, 24, of New Bedford, Massachusetts, addresses the judge during his plea hearing on Jan. 17, 2023. Genao is the second of five accused men to plead guilty to murder and robbery in the November 2021 drug-related killing of Brandin Guerrero in Machias. Credit: Image courtesy of Maine Judicial Branch

A Massachusetts man was sentenced Tuesday to serve 13 years in prison after pleading guilty to murder and robbery in a drug gang-related shooting in Machias in 2021.

Nathanael Genao, 24, of New Bedford, Mass., is one of five men accused of shooting and stealing drugs from Brandin Guererro, 17, of Massapequa, New York, on Nov. 4, 2021.

Also charged with murder and robbery in the killing are Emanuel Ramos, 30, of Roxbury, Massachusetts; Juan Ortiz, 21, of Concord, New Hampshire; and Nathaniel Kerruish, 24, of East Machias.

Another defendant, Jorge Luis Pagan-Sanchez, 42, of Taunton, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty to charges of murder and robbery on Jan. 4. His sentencing date has not yet been set.

Guerrero was believed to be part of the Bloods gang in New York City and was in Machias to sell drugs, according to Maine State Police. Guerrero and Ramos were suspected of working for rival drug gangs, and the five men charged in the case planned an ambush of Guerrero, ostensibly to steal a backpack containing drugs that Guerrero was carrying, police said.

Some of the men were staying in a house where Kerruish and his girlfriend lived at the time at 8 Beal St. in Machias, which is about 200 feet from a nursing home and roughly 1,000 feet from where the ambush and shooting took place.

Genao, Ramos, Pagan-Sanchez and Ortiz all fled Maine after the shooting, which happened after midnight near a cemetery on High Street. People who live on the quiet street told police they heard gunshots at the time of the shooting and then saw cars speeding away, but Guerrero’s body was not found until the next morning.

Fifteen days later, Genao was arrested at his home in New Bedford. Ortiz and Ramos were arrested in Fort Worth, Texas, on charges of killing Guerrero. Pagan-Sanchez was arrested Dec. 3 in Taunton, Massachusetts.

“I just want to say there’s really no excuses for what took place that night,” Genao said Tuesday in a rambling statement to Guerrero’s family, who were observing the hearing via Zoom. “It’s something that never should have taken place.”

Justice Nancy Mills sentenced Genao to 22 years in prison with all but 13 years suspended and 4 years of probation for the murder and the robbery. Genao faced up to 30 years in prison on each charge, but agreed to plead guilty to murder and robbery after reaching a deal with prosecutors to spend only 13 years behind bars.

Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea on Tuesday described the chain of events, telling Mills about the days leading up to the attack and saying that the shooting and robbery of Guerrero was premeditated.

Genao said Tuesday that he disagreed with Zainea’s description of how the crime occurred, but that he still wanted to plead guilty.

He also said he never intended for Guererro to die. He came to Maine as a favor to his brother, who needed a ride, and never meant to get involved in the attack, which he called a “tragedy.” He said he is not a drug dealer and doesn’t do illegal drugs.

“I’m not an evil person,” he told Guerrero’s family. “I got kids of my own. I didn’t want anything bad to happen to anybody. I feel bad. I am sorry for what happened. I wish I could have stopped it.”

Guerrero’s mother, Melissa Olivera, also addressed the court via Zoom. She called her son’s killers “malicious, hateful and evil.” She said the death of her son has also stolen her life. She has no appetite anymore, cannot hold down a job, and has lost friends.

“I don’t even know who I am anymore,” Olivera said, sitting next to a large photo of her dead son and two burning candles.

The killing also has hurt her older son and her five year-old daughter, she said. She described Guerrero as “naive” and said he didn’t know what he was getting into.

“He never had a first kiss,” Olivera said. “That’s how innocent my child was. He had no evil in his heart.”

Two other defendants in the case, Ortiz and Ramos, are tentatively scheduled to go to trial in May on their murder and robbery charges.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....