Coptic family killed in robbery: police


Hamilton Sanchez being escorted from arraignment in New Jersey courthouse.


A Jersey City family slaughtered inside their home in January died for money - not their religious beliefs, prosecutors said yesterday.

An upstairs neighbor and his alleged accomplice were charged yesterday with the brutal murders of Hossam Armanious, 47, and his wife and two daughters.

Hudson County prosecutors revealed that the two paroled drug dealers bound, gagged and stabbed Armanious and his family because his daughter recognized upstairs tenant Edward McDonald during a robbery.

McDonald, 25, and Hamilton Sanchez, 30, were each held on $10 million bail on four counts of murder yesterday. Weeping as he was led away, the muscular Sanchez cried out: "I didn't do it. I didn't kill nobody."

Coptic Christians in Jersey City had believed that the Egyptian family was butchered in their apartment by Muslim extremists because Armanious posted anti-Muslim comments on the Internet.

But Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio said, "the motive for these murders was robbery. This was a crime based on greed, the desperate need of money."

Authorities said Armanious, his wife, Amal Garas, 37, and their daughters, Sylvia, 15, and Monica, 8, were killed three days before their bodies were found Jan. 14.

Cops went to the family's home after relatives had not heard from them for days.

DeFazio said McDonald and Sanchez entered the Oakland Ave. home wearing masks. They allegedly bound and gagged the mother and her daughters and waited for the father to come home.

After Armanious arrived, Monica managed to loosen her bonds and recognized McDonald, DeFazio said. McDonald then killed the girl and Sanchez murdered her father, mother and sister, authorities said.

Even after the grisly murders, McDonald and his family continued to live upstairs.

It took authorities almost two months to obtain the slain family's bank records. When they did, they found McDonald had withdrawn thousands of dollars from Armanious' account using an ATM card.

Garas' brother, Eyan Garas, said he met McDonald at the prosecutor's office during the homicide probe. "When I saw him for the first time, he was with his kids and his wife," he said. "He was like an angel."

Originally published on March 5, 2005