A North Philadelphia mother whose 4-year-old daughter shot herself to death with a gun in their home last summer pleaded guilty Wednesday to involuntary manslaughter and related offenses.
Wiping away tears, and in a barely audible voice, Shakeya Holmes, 26, also pleaded guilty to charges of endangering the welfare of a child, hindering prosecution, recklessly endangering another person, and possession of an instrument of crime.
About noon June 23, Holmes was downstairs washing dishes in her kitchen on 20th Street near Berks Street when daughter Sani picked up a loaded Glock from a shelf in her mother's second-floor bedroom closet and shot herself in the forehead, just above her right eye. The girl was playing with her 3-year-old sister at the time.
Sani was pronounced dead about an hour later at Hahnemann University Hospital.
Assistant District Attorney Kristen Kemp told Common Pleas Court Judge J. Scott O'Keefe that Holmes' boyfriend, Demetrius Williams, kept the gun on the shelf and was frequently seen by the children in the house wearing the gun on his hip.
Law enforcement sources have said that the doorless closet had a cubbyhole that a child could sit in or climb on.
"After the child shot herself, the defendant took several steps trying to cover up having the gun in her home" and lied to police, Kemp said.
After Holmes heard the shot and found Sani, she put her daughter in the bathtub and tried to wipe the blood off her, Kemp said. She then took her daughter outside and put her on the front steps, and then called 911, the prosecutor said.
While the girl lay bleeding outside, a doctor from a clinic across the street came and tried to render aid, Kemp said. After first responders arrived, Sani was rushed to Hahnemann but could not be saved.
Holmes initially told police that Sani was struck by a bullet from outside the house that whizzed into an open second-floor window of the house, the prosecutor said. She later admitted there was a gun in the house, but lied about whose it was, saying she had found it outside in the "projects" in a backpack, Kemp said.
After Holmes finally admitted the gun was her boyfriend's, she continued to lie by saying the children didn't know there was a gun in the house, Kemp said. But the children often played in the closet, where the gun was kept, the prosecutor said.
Williams, 26, was also arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter, endangering the welfare of a child, gun offenses, and recklessly endangering another person. He is in custody on $1 million bail and faces a Feb. 9 status listing in his case and an Aug. 14 trial.
He is the father of the 3-year-old girl, but not the father of Sani or Holmes' oldest daughter, who also lived in the house.
Geoffrey Kilroy, one of Holmes' public defenders, told the judge that after Sani was shot, Holmes tried to call Williams to come to the house, but he refused.
Holmes is to be sentenced March 31. She faces a maximum sentence of 15½ to 31 years in state prison on the five charges. Kemp said after the hearing that she did not know what type of sentence she would seek.
As part of Holmes' plea, prosecutors dropped gun charges against her. Holmes was originally charged with third-degree murder, but that charge was dismissed by a judge at Holmes' Aug. 31 preliminary hearing.
Holmes has been in protective custody at the Riverside Correctional Facility on State Road.