Teens Convicted of Killing Friend Over Drug Money

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Three teenagers were convicted of first-degree murder Wednesday for bludgeoning a friend to death for $500 — money they used for a drug binge.

Jason Sweeney (search), a 16-year-old who was on the fringe of the teens' social circle in the city's blue-collar Fishtown (search) neighborhood, was lured to his death by a 15-year-old girl who promised him sex. When he got to a secluded spot near the Delaware River, he was ambushed by the three youths with a hatchet, a hammer and a large rock.

Domenic Coia (search), 19, his brother Nicholas Coia, 18, and Edward Batzig Jr., 18, will serve mandatory sentences of life in prison. Prosecutors had sought the death penalty against Domenic Coia, but a Supreme Court ruling last week banned states from executing anyone for crimes committed before they were 18.

Batzig and Nicholas Coia were 16 at the time of the slaying. Domenic Coia was 17.

The female accomplice, Justina Morley, previously pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and testified against the three in exchange for a sentence of 17 1/2 to 35 years.

The victim's father said he was satisfied with the verdict.

"My son got justice today," Paul Sweeney said. "That's all I cared about. The system worked today."

Defense lawyers admitted that the teens were responsible for the slaying but had asked jurors to convict them of no more than third-degree murder, which carries a maximum of 40 years.

"There's been remorse as soon as these kids got off the drugs," said attorney Barbara McDermott, who represented Nicholas Coia.

Attorneys for the other two defendants could not immediately be reached.