In the middle of jury selection in his murder trial, a former Navy serviceman decided yesterday to plead guilty in the 2006 shooting death of 5-year-old Casha'e Rivers in Strawberry Mansion.
Noel Garcia, 25, pleaded guilty to third-degree murder, weapons offenses and related charges. He had thought that men from a rival group had been riding in the car in which Casha'e sat.
Garcia also pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and related charges in two other shootings that occurred the same day, Sept. 24, 2006. He was then sentenced by Common Pleas Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes as part of a negotiated deal to 22 to 45 years in state prison.
Casha'e was in the back of her mother's Oldsmobile when she was struck once in the back at 34th and Huntingdon streets. She died shortly afterward.
Her mother, Alisha Corley, was driving with Corley's sister, then 16, a friend, and Corley's then-1-year-old son.
After the plea, Corley, 25, walked out of the courtroom with a box of tissues. "I'm not really pleased with the years that he got at all," she said, adding that she had hoped for more prison time.
Kimberly Carter-Ford, 39, Casha'e's aunt, who had given a victim-impact statement in court, said afterward that she told Garcia in court that "it's really sad that we both had to be here. . . . My niece's life was destroyed, now his life is destroyed."
Carter-Ford added that the sentence was fair.
Garcia, of Frankford, apologized in court yesterday. He contended he was high on drugs that day. Of Casha'e's shooting, he said: "It was wrong and I'm sorry. . . . I should have ended this earlier. I apologize."
Garcia decided to plead guilty yesterday before jurors were brought into the courtroom for a third day of jury selection.
Garcia's attorney, Jack McMahon, said after the plea that Casha'e's death "was haunting" his client. "It was clear it truly bothered him," McMahon said, adding: "I think today he stood up and was responsible, and was a man."
Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Selber, in recounting that day's three shootings, said the first occurred about 10:30 a.m. when Garcia shot at three men on Spangler Street near Cumberland, and hit one man, Michael Seeney, in the hip.
Seeney was part of a rival group to which Garcia belonged, she said. The shooting on Spangler had been prompted by another shooting two days before when Garcia's friend, Anthony Brown, was shot by an associate of Seeney's, Selber said.
About 15 minutes after the Spangler Street shooting, Garcia, driving in the area of 34th and Huntingdon, thought the guys from Spangler were in the Oldsmobile driven by Corley, Selber said. He fired nine times, with one shot hitting Casha'e, she said.