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20 to 40 years in Piazza at Schmidts murders

It was supposed to be a "sweet beat" - a robbery that would earn Ceasar Holloway enough for an Aston Martin luxury car.

It was supposed to be a "sweet beat" - a robbery that would earn Ceasar Holloway enough for an Aston Martin luxury car.

It turned into a double murder at a flashy new Northern Liberties complex that on Thursday earned Holloway 20 to 40 years behind bars.

Before he was sentenced by Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey P. Minehart, Holloway, 37, turned and apologized to Sandy Thal, the mother of victim Rian Thal.

"It was not my intention for anything like this to happen to your daughter," he said.

Her head supported by one hand, Thal listened to Holloway, the purported lieutenant of the mastermind of the 2009 murders at the Piazza at Schmidts. She said nothing except to thank the judge.

After almost a year as a fugitive, Holloway was the last of eight people arrested in the June 2009 botched holdup that ended in the shootings of party planner Thal, 34, and Timothy Gilmore, 40, a friend and long-distance trucker from Ohio.

Holloway pleaded guilty in May to two counts of third-degree murder and two counts of robbery and conspiracy in the slayings that cast a pall over the opening of the Piazza complex.

Holloway was not one of the three gunmen who killed Thal and Gilmore in the hallway outside her seventh-floor apartment. At trial, he was called the right-hand man of Will "Pooh" Hook.

Both Holloway and attorney Donald Chisholm II asked Minehart for a sentence below the 20-year statutory minimum for third-degree murder.

Chisholm said Holloway always planned to plead guilty and accept responsibility but wanted a sentence that left him time to work once released.

Assistant District Attorney Carlos Vega asked for a 25- to 50-year prison term but did not oppose the sentence's running concurrently with an eight-year term Holloway is serving on a 2011 federal gun conviction.

Minehart sentenced Holloway to the statutory sentence for third-degree murder: 20 to 40 years in prison concurrent to all other sentences.

Minehart told Holloway he was lucky because had he gone to trial and been found guilty, he would likely be facing life in prison without parole.

Of the eight arrested, four pleaded guilty before jury selection began in the November 2011 trial.

In December 2011, a jury found three men - Hook, 44, Edward Daniels, 45, and Antonio Wright, 32 - guilty of first-degree murder. They were sentenced to life without parole.

Two defendants remain to be sentenced.

Holloway helped Hook recruit the robbers and drove Wright to the Piazza.

According to trial testimony, Thal and Gilmore were both involved in the drug trade and Gilmore had just arrived from Texas with about 11 kilograms of Mexican cocaine.

As word spread on the street that Thal had large amounts of cocaine and cash in her apartment, Hook and his associates planned to rob them.

But when the three gunmen confronted Thal and Gilmore outside her apartment, Gilmore resisted, and both were shot and killed. The gunmen fled without any cash or drugs.

Police said more than $100,000 in cash and 8.5 pounds of cocaine were later found in Thal's apartment.