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Tragedy Among Friends

O'Connell High School graduate sentenced for killing former classmate and friend.

An "unspeakable tragedy," said defense attorneys.

With "everlasting impact," said the prosecutor.

A case Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Jonathan C. Thacher lost sleep over.

Brendan Klos, now 22, shot and killed his former high school classmate and best friend, Anthony "A.J." Sherbaf, 20, of McLean, on Aug. 25, 2005.

"A.J. had just left his teen years and just began the years" of decisions that shape adult life, said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Katherine E. Stott.

"His family will never know the wonderful adult that remarkable young man would have become," she said, while Sherbaf's mother wept.

"A.J. was my friend, he was my best friend and I killed him. I'm so sorry," Klos said in a soft-spoken tone, as he turned to face Sherbaf's parents. "I've ruined your lives. I'm so sorry."

Judge Thacher sentenced Klos to seven-and-one-half years in prison, the sentence recommended by a Fairfax jury after it convicted Klos of voluntary manslaughter on Jan. 29, 2007.

KLOS AND SHERBAF were friends and classmates; both graduated from Bishop Denis J. O'Connell High School in Arlington in 2003.

When police arrived at Klos' Mount Vernon home on Beech Tree Drive around 8 p.m. on Aug. 25, 2005, Klos sat next to the mailbox in front of his house. "I'm a murderer, I didn't mean to," Klos said, as police arrived.

Inside the house in Klos' bedroom, police discovered Sherbaf's body. Klos fatally shot Sherbaf with one bullet that entered his cheek and lodged inside his brain. Next to Sherbaf lay the .22-caliber silver handgun that Klos bought from Blue Ridge Arsenal 16 days before the shooting.

In the minutes before police arrived, Klos sobbed and wailed to a 911 operator in anguished screams while begging for help.

"If that wasn't genuine remorse over what he had done, I don't know what is," said defense attorney Jonathan Shapiro, during the trial.

Klos argued that he acted in self-defense after an altercation between the two friends, a theory rejected by the jury. The trial never revealed exactly what happened in the summer of 2005.

"There were no witnesses to this scene, except for Mr. Klos and Mr. Sherbaf," Shapiro said, in his motion for Judge Thacher to set aside the verdict, which Thacher denied.

Klos could have faced life in prison if the jury convicted him on first-degree murder, and could have been acquitted if the jury believed he acted in self defense.

Klos has been in police custody since the shooting, and spent some time in a state mental health facility following a suicide attempt shortly after his preliminary hearing in January 2006.

BEFORE FRIDAY'S sentencing hearing, Judge Thacher spent hours reading impact statements written on behalf of people who loved both Sherbaf and Klos.

"I was struck by the similarities of the terms used by both," Thacher said.

"'Kind,' 'gentle,' 'giving,' 'caring,' 'loving'ā€¦'a friend of the highest caliber,'" he said.

He said it was hard for him not to think about the defendant or the victim and not think of his own son who is close to their age.

"Whatever one says about this case, there is a single element," that Thacher kept coming back to.

"Brendan will return to society ā€¦ to ultimately prosper," and will get the chance each day to look at the sun, said Thacher.

"Brendan Klos' family will live with temporary loss, but they will still be able to spend time with him, love him, cry with him, be with him," Thacher said.

In the next month, they will even begin preparing together for an anticipated appeal of his conviction.

"A.J.'s parents will never see [their son] again," Thacher said.