Richmond Hill man gets life without parole for brutal execution of robbery victim

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The Richmond Hill man who tied up, fatally shot and burned a robbery victim inside his apartment nearly five years ago will be spending the rest of his life behind bars.

Stephen Peters, 27, of 95th Avenue received a life sentence without parole on July 25 after being convicted in June of first- and second-degree murder for the February 2013, execution-style slaying of Azeem Ali, 43, of Richmond Hill.

Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said that Peters had already begun serving a 30 years to life sentence after being convicted in January 2017 of second-degree murder and lesser charges including robbery, burglary, kidnapping, arson and tampering with physical evidence. Jurors in that trial, however, failed to reach a guilty verdict on the top charge of first-degree murder.

Brown’s office opted to retry Peters on three first-degree murder counts, as a conviction on that charge carries a penalty of life imprisonment without parole. Prosecutors ultimately succeeded in achieving a guilty verdict from a jury last month.

“The brutality and viciousness of this killing is mind-boggling,” Brown said. “The victim in this case was defenseless after being beaten and restrained, but the defendant still shot him in the head and then, in an attempt to cover up the crime, set the apartment ablaze, potentially injuring others that lived in the building.”

The heinous crime occurred just after midnight on Feb. 24, 2013, when Peters and an accomplice — Jason St. Hill, 22 — visited Ali’s home on 95th Avenue in South Richmond Hill. Once inside, law enforcement sources said that Peters beat up Ali, then bound his hands and feet with electrical cord as St. Hill pointed a gun at the victim.

Authorities said that Peters went down to the basement to retrieve a container of gasoline, then returned to Ali’s apartment and demanded the victim’s bank card and PIN. Once Ali complied with his request, Peters shot him three times in the head.

Before leaving the scene, Peters doused Ali’s body with gasoline and spread the fuel around the apartment, then set it all on fire.

Firefighters responding to the inferno discovered Ali’s charred remains after extinguishing the blaze.

Detectives later learned that Peters and St. Hill used Ali’s debit card to withdraw $200 from an ATM at a gas station shortly after the robbery. Both suspects were picked up four days later.

Brown said that St. Hill pleaded guilty in February 2017 to first-degree robbery and is now serving a 12 1/2-year prison sentence.