A Southwest Philadelphia man pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 22 to 44 years in prison Tuesday in last year's fatal stabbing of London Chanel.

Only a day earlier, Raheam Felton, 32, had rejected the same plea deal and sentence, saying he wanted a trial in the May 18, 2015, slaying of the 21-year-old who had moved to Philadelphia from Texas to be able to live as a woman.

A Common Pleas Court jury was picked and opening statements were set to begin when defense attorney Charles P. Mirarchi III said Felton wanted to plead guilty to third-degree murder and a weapons charge.

Members of Chanel's family, who had flown in from Texas for the trial, seemed surprised by Felton's decision and struggled to remain composed after Assistant District Attorney Guy D'Andrea asked if they wished to make victim-impact statements.

Chanel's mother, Veronica Allen, wept during a statement full of regret and anger, as she described her estrangement after Chanel, who was born as her son Marcus Washington, said she was going to live as a woman.

"He made me see all my mistakes," Allen told Judge Glenn B. Bronson. "He made me understand the transgender community. He moved away. We fought because of his choice.

"I didn't understand, but the world changes and I had to learn to change with it," Allen said. "I knew Marcus, but I didn't get to know London, the beautiful woman she became. [Felton] took that from me."

Chanel's aunt Dimitria Washington, who said she helped raise her, sobbed and confronted Felton: "She was such a sweet person. She would give anything. What did she do that was so wrong?"

When Bronson asked Felton if he wished to speak before sentencing, Felton replied, "Only that I do apologize for my actions."

The key witness against Felton at his preliminary hearing last June was his then-girlfriend, Mayai Bankz, who said Felton became enraged when Chanel told Bankz that he had been "sexually touching her."

Bankz said Felton pulled out a knife and started stabbing Chanel, screaming, " 'This is what we do here. This is what we do to a snitch.' "

Chanel died of six stab wounds to her neck, chest, and back.

It happened before 1 a.m. in an empty house in the 2200 block of North Ingersoll Street in North Philadelphia, where Bankz said she and Chanel were living. Bankz said Felton had just returned with takeout food.

Felton initially told police that he and Bankz had found Chanel stabbed by an unknown attacker and dying.

Chanel was the fourth transgender woman murdered in Philadelphia since 2013. After moving to Philadelphia, she quickly became well-known in the city's transgender community and developed a large network of friends.

After Tuesday's hearing, Chanel's mother and aunt met briefly with Helen "Nellie" Fitzpatrick, director of the mayor's Office of LGBT Affairs.

215-854-2985 @joeslobo