For four days, Lemuel Payne hid his damaged Mercedes-Benz; three times he allegedly skipped out on home monitoring; and for almost a year, he kept silent.
But Payne, 27, admitted his role for the first time in last year's hit-and-run death of 16-year-old Faith Sinclair in Sharon Hill by pleading guilty yesterday to charges of leaving the scene of an accident involving death and of tampering with evidence.
The guilty plea came one day before he was to go to trial in Delaware County Court.
Kim Ferrell, Sinclair's mother, said she was glad for the plea because it saved her family from the agony of a trial.
"But they're still just words," she said.
"Show me, don't tell because I have yet to see remorse."
Payne, who was convicted in 2006 of driving under the influence, struck Sinclair as she was crossing Chester Pike near Laurel Road with friends about 10:15 p.m. last Aug. 3.
He left the Ridley High School honor student for dead and hid his damaged car under a blanket and behind the darkened windows of his garage in Upper Darby.
Police found the car four days later.
In April, Payne's $75,000 bail was revoked after he skipped out on his electronic home monitoring to visit a Philadelphia nightclub.
That incident prompted investigators to look into two occasions in which he claimed to have gone to the hospital.
Prosecutors found major discrepancies between the times he claimed to be at the hospital and the times he was documented as having been there.
To Ferrell, Payne's attitude showed that he didn't take her daughter's death seriously, but she says she can't allow herself to think about it too much.
"He just doesn't deserve to rent that much space in my head," she said.
Ferrell visits her daughter's grave every morning and every night, she said. When she goes on vacation, she has friends that will sit by Faith's grave in her stead.
Judge Frank T. Hazel scheduled Payne's sentencing for July 20, five days after what would have been Faith Sinclair's 17th birthday.
Ferrell said she and her supporters will bring balloons outside of the courthouse on the day of sentencing to release in honor of Faith's birthday.
"This is a birthday gift," she said. "I don't want him to remember the day he took her, I want him to remember the day God gave her to us, the day God chose us.
"The day he took her is the day she affected the rest of his life."
When Payne is sentenced, he faces a maximum of nine years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
District Attorney G. Michael Green said prosecutors will seek "whatever maximums apply" at sentencing. *