Fatal Bronx school stabbing trial begins with emotional day

BRONX, New York (WABC) -- Opening statements began Friday in the trial of a teenager accused in the deadly stabbing of a classmate inside a school in the Bronx.

Abel Cedeno is charged with first-degree manslaughter and assault in the death of 15-year-old Matthew McCree and is also accused of critically injuring 16-year-old Ariane Laboy at the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation in September 2017.

Both Cedeno's and McCree's families were present in court for what was an emotional start to the trial.

Defense attorney Robert Feldman claimed Cedeno endured years of bullying about his sexual orientation and feared for his life that day, but prosecutor Nancy Borko, chief of the homicide unit, said in her opening statement that he came prepared that day with a switchblade.

When she says other students threw things at him in class, he got up to leave.

"He is not going to tolerate it, and he wants to show his stuff," she said.

McCree was then stabbed once in his chest, while Laboy was stabbed and slashed several times.

"All the stab wounds came from one person," Borko said. "Abel Cedeno."

Defense attorney Christopher Lynn painted Cedeno as the victim.

"Abel Cedeno is not guilty of any crime," he said. "He didn't attack anyone. He was the one who was attacked."

They claim McCree hit Cedeno first and was the aggressor.

"His actions were purely defensive," Lynn said.

Cedeno had purchased the knife online for $44, they claim, because of the bullying.

"His use of that knife was reasonable," Lynn said.

Guidance counselor Shavon Evelyn was the first witness to testify. She was also the first to encounter Cedeno after the stabbing.

"She was the person to whom he gave the knife," McCree family attorney Sanford Rubenstein said. "And he said to her, and I quote, 'I shouldn't have done it. I went too far.'"

Earlier this month, the judge asked both sides to explore the possibility of a plea agreement, but the suggestion was instantly rejected by the defense team, who claimed that the district attorney's insistence on a 10-year prison sentence was unacceptable.

Cedeno has been free on bail, and his attorneys say he endured years of bullying about his sexual orientation.

In an exclusive interview with Eyewitness News, Cedeno said he took a knife to school because he feared for his safety.

"The class was very rowdy and loudness and everything," he said. "I just snapped."

The victim's mother voiced her outrage Cedeno's bail was lowered prior to his release.

"I'm pissed the hell off," Louna Dennis said. "I'm pissed. He gets to go home with his family for Christmas. My son is in a fricking cemetery. Fricking in the dirt. And he gets to go home to his family? I'm pissed the hell off, and at this point, I feel like the system is failing me."

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