Murder trial begins for teen charged in kidnapping, murder of Richland County teen in 2021

Published: May. 16, 2023 at 4:00 PM EDT

LEXINGTON, S.C. (WIS) - The murder trial of a Lexington County teenager accused of kidnapping and murdering a Richland County teen in 2021 began on Tuesday.

Nazareth “Nicolle” Sanchez-Peralta is being tried as an adult.

Prosecutors said that Sanchez-Peralta and two others lured Sanaa Amenhotep away from her northeast Columbia home on the night of April 5, 2021, drove her to the woods in Leesville, and killed her.

In opening statements at the Lexington County courthouse, the state argued that it was Sanchez-Peralta’s insistence and trickery that led Amenhotep into the car that night.

Amenhotep trusted her, and Sanchez-Peralta broke that trust, prosecutors said.

The defense said it is a tragedy what happened to both Amenhotep and Sanchez-Peralta.

Sanchez-Peralta was abused by her boyfriend, Treveon Nelson, who is also charged with the killing.

The lawyers made their arguments before Judge Debra McCaslin.

She requested that there be no video recording, only still images.

Prosecutor Suzanne Mayes alleged in her opening statement that it was Sanchez-Peralta’s relationship with Nelson that led her to take part in the murder.

She was committed to doing anything and everything he told her, she asserted.

Prosecutors argue that the defendants murdered Amenhotep in response to a drive-by shooting that happened at Nelson’s home the previous night.

They suspected that Amenhotep’s boyfriend played a part in that shooting.

Prosecutors also spoke about South Carolina law, telling jurors that it does not matter if there was one gun and one bullet. All are equally guilty if they were acting together, they said.

They argued that the evidence will show that Sanchez-Peralta shot Amenhotep.

Defense attorney Hali Selert asked jurors to listen carefully to the witnesses testifying during the trial.

“Why are they saying these things? Do they not want the spotlight on them,” she said.

The defense also emphasized that the burden is on the state to prove Sanchez-Peralta’s guilt.

As testimony began, jurors heard from Sanaa’s younger sister and the last person to see her alive. She was 13 years old at the time of the murder.

She said Sanchez-Peralta was “very insistent” that her sister leave in the car on the night of the slaying.

Jurors were shown direct messages on social media that the pair exchanged after Amenhotep’s disappearance, as friends and family were frantically looking for her.

Amenhotep’s sister said she was suspicious about Sanchez-Peralta’s responses, especially given that she did not appear interested in putting up missing person flyers to help locate her sister.

Finally, an RCSD investigator took the stand and explained that Sanchez-Peralta gave three different stories about her whereabouts on the night of Amenhotep’s murder during an interview on April 27.

Prosecutors zeroed in on this, asserting that in all of these stories, Sanchez-Peralta always makes herself out to be a witness to the night’s events and not a participant.

Testimony resumes at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning.

Nelson pleaded guilty in this case and is awaiting sentencing.

A third individual, Jaylen Wilson, faces trial next week.

Notice a spelling or grammar error in this article? Click or tap here to report it. Please include the article’s headline.

Stay up to date with WIS News 10. Get the app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store and Stream us on Roku, YouTube, Amazon Fire, or Apple TV.