Two families, one fleeing political unrest in Burma and another escaping the violence of Chicago, landed in the Twin Cities to give their sons a better life.
The boys grew up in the east metro, where they lived dramatically different lives that collided last August. Steven E. Lewis, from Chicago, lured Aung Thu Bo, born in Thailand, to a parking lot and then a side street in St. Paul. There, Lewis fatally shot Bo once in the head during a robbery. Bo thought he was meeting Lewis to buy an iPhone advertised on Craigslist.
"It seems to me that your parents moved up here to give you a better life, is that correct?" Ramsey County District Judge Margaret Marrinan asked Lewis at his sentencing Wednesday.
"Yes," Lewis answered.
"It's an ironic tale of two families, isn't it?" she asked after noting that Bo's parents did the same for him.
"Yes," Lewis replied.
Marrinan admonished Lewis, 27, for squandering his opportunities and then ending the life of someone who was making the most of his. Bo, 19, was a longtime volunteer who was going to school at Hamline University.
Bo helped his parents and sisters, while friends said Lewis came from a broken home where he didn't know his dad, didn't communicate with his mother and relied on a grandmother.
Lewis tried to rectify that in his own life, said his friend Andrian Sangster. He has two daughters, ages 5 and 4.
"He was very involved with his kids," said Sangster, who didn't downplay his friend's troubled criminal past.
Lewis also has a 10-month-old son he's never met. The earliest he could possibly meet his son outside prison walls is when the boy is 16. Lewis was sentenced to about 24 years for second-degree murder and nine years for aggravated robbery. The sentences will run concurrently. He has to serve about 16 years before becoming eligible for parole.
The tragedy of Bo's murder is not lost on Sangster, but he couldn't help but worry for his friend's young son.
"It's a vicious cycle," Sangster said.