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Sean Engel

Sean Engel, 19, of St. Charles County, was shot to death on Oct. 1, 2015. 

ST. LOUIS • A St. Louis man has admitted trying to rob and killing a St. Charles County teen in the city in 2015.

Jamar H. Mack, 26, was set to stand trial this week but reached a plea agreement with St. Louis prosecutors by pleading guilty Monday to a reduced charge of second-degree murder, attempted robbery and two counts of armed criminal action. Mack was sentenced to 23 years by St. Louis Circuit Judge Elizabeth Hogan.

Mack admitted killing Sean Engel, 19, about 10:25 p.m. on Oct. 1, 2015, during a struggle in the 4400 block of Sexauer Avenue in the city’s Penrose neighborhood.

Engel and Mack were co-workers at the food court of an outlet mall in Chesterfield, Engel’s mother Cathy Engel said Tuesday. Engel had given Mack a ride home after work the night he was killed. She believes Mack planned to rob her son because Mack knew Engel had money on him. She said she doesn’t know exactly what led to the shooting.

Cathy Engel said she had hoped Mack’s case would have gone to trial and believes Mack’s sentence is too short.

“I think he got off with a slap on the hand,” she said. “My kid got life, you know? He’s dead.”

Charges said witnesses reported hearing a gunshot and seeing Sean Engel struggle with Mack, who was armed with a handgun. They heard Mack say “give it up” to Engel, then heard more gunshots. They saw Engel climb into his Mini Cooper and try to drive off but it crashed into a parked car on the same block.

A witness saw Mack trying to open the car doors, then flee the scene. Sean Engel’s blood-stained wallet containing a “large sum” of cash was found on the floor of his car.

Police chased Mack and arrested him in a nearby gangway. Police said Mack tossed a gun during the chase, and officers recovered it. Mack matched the description given by witnesses and had blood on his clothes, shoes, hands and arms, police said.

Mack lived in the 4400 block of Athlone Avenue.

Sean Engel lived in the first block of Walnut Point Court in unincorporated St. Charles County. He was Cathy and Richard Engel’s only child after several miscarriages and a stillborn son when Sean was 5 years old. Cathy Engel said Sean named his stillborn brother Joseph. In a victim impact statement she read to the judge, Engel called Sean her miracle child.

“He was the love of my life, and without him, life is kind of, what’s the point?” she said in an interview. “You should never have to bury your kid.”

He graduated from Francis Howell High School in 2014 and had begun online courses in video game art and design, his mother said.

Through his teens, she said, her son struggled with drugs but he had just begun to discover his independence.

“I think he was really trying to get his life together,” she said.

His passion growing up was reptiles, particularly “Pein,” his Colombian red-tailed boa constrictor, which has grown to 6 feet and still lives with his parents in St. Augustine, Fla.

She said her sons are home with her together — their ashes stored in the same urn.

Joel Currier is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter here: @joelcurrier.