Crime scene evidence critical on day 3 of trial for teen charged in Sanaa Amenhotep’s murder

Nazareth Sanchez-Peralta, who goes by Nicolle, is charged with murder and kidnapping in connection with Amenhotep’s death.
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Published: May. 18, 2023 at 8:44 PM EDT

LEXINGTON, S.C. (WIS) - Crime scene evidence was a key focus during the third day of witness testimony in the trial of a Lexington County teen accused of killing Sanaa Amenhotep, a Richland County 15-year-old, in 2021.

Nazareth Sanchez-Peralta, who goes by Nicolle, is charged with murder and kidnapping in connection with Amenhotep’s death.

Prosecutors say that she and two co-defendants drove to a rural wooded area in Leesville on April 5, 2021, and brutally murdered Amenhotep.

Much of the evidence on Thursday centered on the location where Amenhotep’s body was located.

Initially, Sanchez-Peralta told investigators that she was not present when Amenhotep’s body was being buried and could not locate it. She later led them to the exact location.

The state’s first witness on Thursday was Lexington County Sheriff’s Department investigator Brenda Snelgrove.

She searched the wooded area on the evening of April 28, 2021, and testified that she and her team discovered some of Amenhotep’s personal belongings there.

They found an earring, burnt Croc shoes, and a fake eyelash, among other items.

Investigators also located a broken piece of a shovel.

Treveon Nelson, Sanchez-Peralta’s boyfriend who is also charged in the slaying, sent a Facebook message to a friend asking about a shovel at around 12:55 a.m. on the night of Amenhotep’s murder.

Dozens of shell casings were found at the scene as well.

A co-defendant’s home was searched, and in his bedroom, investigators found sheets that appeared to match a pillowcase that was located near Amenhotep’s ankles.

Investigators also discovered 2 guns: a .380 pistol and a 9-millimeter handgun.

Amanda Metz, an agent who works in the Richland County Sheriff’s Department’s forensics sciences laboratory, took the stand later in the afternoon.

Metz, a firearm and tool mark expert, testified that shell casings found at the murder scene matched those two weapons.

She testified that there were 10 unknown casings, believed to be linked to another 9-millimeter pistol.

That gun has not been recovered.

In opening statements, state prosecutor Suzanne Mayes argued that evidence will show that Sanchez-Peralta shot Amenhotep.

On cross-examination of Metz, defense attorney David Mauldin sought to establish that other guns, in addition to these three, may be involved in Amenhotep’s killing based on shell casings collected in 2022.

The final witness of the day was Angelina Phillips, the forensic pathologist who conducted Amenhotep’s autopsy.

Phillips testified that the teenager was shot at least 14 times, and possibly more because there were large portions of absent skin and tissue when her body was discovered.

Several of the gunshot wounds that Amenhotep suffered could have been fatal, Phillips said.

She also testified that Amenhotep had blunt-force injuries to the face and multiple broken ribs.

Some of her injuries appeared to be consistent with defensive wounds, Phillips testified.

Testimony continues at 9:30 a.m. on Friday.

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