Carjacker Sentenced in St. Louis Artist's Murder

Anthony Sapone and Ami Amore'. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY SAPONE
PHOTO BY ANTHONY SAPONE
Anthony Sapone and Ami Amore'.

A carjacker who killed a St. Louis artist pleaded last week today in federal court and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Demario Hunter, 35, of East St. Louis shot James "Anthony" Sapone in March 2019 in a parking lot off of Cherokee Street.

Hunter and two accomplices, Surrayah Hill and Hill's cousin Keombra James, were trawling the neighborhood that night, searching for someone to rob, according to Hunter's plea agreement.

Sapone and his fiancée, fellow artist Ami Amore', were headed to their car, a 2013 Ford Escape, at about 9 p.m. when the trio of carjackers was passing by, federal prosecutors say. Alerted by the flash of headlights when Sapone clicked the remote start on the Escape, Hunter moved in.

He admitted to confronting Sapone with a 9mm. A struggle ensued, and Sapone was shot. According to the scenario laid out in Hunter's plea, James tried to get into the Escape, but Amore' fought her off. Hunter rifled Sapone's pockets as the wounded man lay dying, and then he, Hill and James fled in their vehicle with Hill driving, prosecutors say.

The three were charged in Sapone's killing in September 2019. Cases against Hill and James are still pending in federal court.

Amore' spoke to the Riverfront Times in 2019 as she and other artists prepared for an art show in tribute to her murdered fiancé.

“I really just want people to get the message to not squander your days away on things that don’t matter," she said at the time. "You can take a negative and turn it into a positive.”

Sapone was best known for his photography, often working with CGI digital artwork and incorporating music into his pieces. The show after his death, entitled "Transcendence — The Art of Ami Amore' and Anthony Sapone," was a way for Amore' to give Sapone the gallery show he never thought he would have.

In a letter sent this morning to the court and written in advance of Hunter's sentencing, Amore' described the excruciating grief she felt after the fatal attack.

"Grief is like a virus that just doesn't go away," she wrote. "It sneaks up on you for any or no reason at all. There is not a day that goes by that I don't miss him."

She wrote that she replays the events of that night in her head and has often wondered about Hunter and what brought him to do what he did.

"I want to believe you are an inherently good person, who made some bad choices in life and that you did not intend to pull the trigger and kill anyone that night, but you picked the wrong people. I want to believe that you care about all the lives you have affected, not just my life, but your own with your family, friends and let's not forget your two accomplices that night," she wrote. "Only you know."

Nearly three years since that night, Amore' wrote that she has struggled with what happened but that she has also made a choice.

"I know nobody will understand this, but my choice here is to forgive you for what you did," she wrote, addressing Hunter. "Not for you, but for me. It takes too much valuable energy to hold onto hate and anger."

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at [email protected] or follow on Twitter at @DoyleMurphy.
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