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Two decades after escape, Greek man sentenced for U.S. murder

By Jason McLure

LITTLETON, New Hampshire (Reuters) - A 45-year-old Greek citizen who fled the United States more than two decades ago, the day before he was convicted of murdering his 2-year-old stepson, has been retried in his home country and sentenced to 18 years in a Greek jail, U.S. law enforcement officials said on Friday.

The conviction and sentencing of the man, Steven Kamberidis, was the result of years of negotiation between the Federal Bureau of Investigation -- which knew the man was in Greece -- and Greek authorities, FBI officials said.

Kamberidis, formerly of Nashua, New Hampshire, had been released on $50,000 bail during his May 1991 trial in state court for the beating death of the boy, James Chartier. He disappeared on the jury's first day of deliberation, and was convicted the next day despite his absence from court. He was later sentenced in absentia to 30-years to life in a New Hampshire prison.

The FBI had been aware for years that Kamberidis was living with family members in Thessaloniki, Greece, where the family owns businesses including a carpet and rug store. Greece does not typically extradite its own citizens to the United States, said Kieran Ramsey, the supervisory agent in the FBI's New Hampshire office.

Kamberidis was arrested in Greece in February and sentenced on April 29, the result of an agreement that allowed the court in Athens to use records of testimony from his U.S. trial, Ramsey said.

U.S. officials did not announce the conviction until now because of a lengthy diplomatic process to affirm the result, Ramsey said.

"What resulted was a consolation prize and a very positive result," Ramsey, said in a phone interview. "They decided to arrest him, try him and convict him there, which essentially reaffirmed the New Hampshire state conviction."

Daniel Chartier, the young victim's uncle, told the Nashua Telegraph newspaper that the family was "very relieved" at the news. Other family members of the murdered child could not be reached for comment.

As part of his bail terms during his 1991 New Hampshire trial, Kamberidis was ordered to live with his parents in Manchester, New Hampshire. After he escaped, family members told the local sheriff's office that he disappeared during his normal evening walk. Authorities soon suspected he had fled the country.

Kamberidis's parents later returned to Thessaloniki, after forfeiting their home to cover their son's bail.

"International fugitive cases can be very complicated," Ramsey said, before thanking Greek law enforcement. "They did give us an extremely favorable outcome and they did give us some measure of justice for the family and the poor 2-year-old boy who was killed."

(Editing by Scott Malone and Bob Burgdorfer)

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