Just a few years ago, Shatara Carter was the kind of girl who put "Dora the Explorer" and little pink hearts on her MySpace page.
Now the 14-year-old goes by the nickname "Fiesty Ru" in her Camden street gang, and she admitted in court yesterday that she's the kind of girl who beat, strangled, and stabbed a young woman to death because her gang leader told her to.
Dressed in a purple shirt, jeans, and sneakers, the soft-spoken, bespectacled teen described in detail how she slowly tortured and killed Muriah Huff, 18, inside a Berkley Street rowhouse in Camden on Feb. 22 after Kuasheim "Presto" Powell pistol-whipped the woman and hit her with a chair until it broke apart.
"He told me and my homegirl to finish her off," Carter said yesterday morning in Camden County Superior Court.
Finishing off Huff wasn't easy, though, Carter said. She said she and other codefendants strangled the young woman with their hands, placed a plastic bag over her head, and finally used a rope. Huff was also stabbed.
"Did you beat her down with pieces of the chair?" asked her attorney, Kevin Lewis.
"Yes sir," she replied.
Earlier yesterday, Carter agreed to be waived to adult court, where she pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter before Superior Court Judge Thomas Brown. She will have to serve at least 17 years of a 20-year prison term when sentenced on July 9.
Authorities found Huff, 18, of Cinnaminson, and her boyfriend, Michael "Doc Money" Hawkins, 23, of Mount Holly, buried in the back yard of the Berkley Street home, beneath a thin layer of snow, on Feb. 25. Hawkins had been beaten, shot and stabbed on the second floor of the home over a gang dispute. Huff had just tagged along.
In the weeks that followed, 10 adults and juveniles were arrested for their involvement in the killings, including Carter's brother, Dennis Welch. Nearly all of them had an affiliation with the Lueders Park Piru Bloods. Powell was arrested at a home in Paramount, Calif., just a few miles from Lueders Park in Compton.
Huff's family sat in Brown's courtroom while Carter detailed Huff's death and they remained stone-faced, even when Carter tried to address them.
"I would like to apologize to the family," she said.
Carter's mother, who lives in the Berkley Street home, spoke out in the juvenile courtroom, saying her daughter didn't understand the agreement she was accepting. Later, when she learned of her daughter's impending prison term, Carter's mother sobbed and shook her head with other relatives in the courtroom. The family declined to comment afterward.
Assistant Camden County Prosecutor Mary Alison Albright said yesterday that there were other adults in the Berkley Street home on Feb. 22 who were aware of what was going who have not been charged.
"It's an ongoing investigation," she said. "That's all I can say."
Carter was the youngest of four juveniles charged in the murders and the last to be waived to adult court. She is the first defendant to plead guilty.