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Woman pleads guilty to hiring hitman to kill lover

Aaron Hayes, 52, was gunned down in front of his home May 2012.

A SOUTHWEST Philadelphia woman who in 2012 hired a neighborhood mechanic to murder her live-in boyfriend apparently looked reality in the face yesterday morning and called off her jury trial in Common Pleas Court.

Instead of picking a jury, Desiree Arnett Hicks, 58, pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder for her role in the calculated May 31, 2012, slaying of Aaron Hayes, 52.

Hayes, a SEPTA trolley operator, was gunned down just before 5 a.m. in front of the couple's Elmwood Avenue home as he opened the back door of his van to place work tools inside.

Allegedly waiting in the van was hit man Miguel Gonzalez, 39, who had been hired to kill Hayes because he was ending his relationship with Hicks after 17 years.

Gonzalez allegedly shot Hayes three times in the chest before fleeing. The victim died later that morning.

Hicks had given Gonzalez the van key the morning of the slaying while Hayes was showering, defense attorney James Berardinelli said. She knew the hit man because he worked at a neighborhood garage where she and Hayes took their cars for service, he said.

"She's accepted responsibility for what she did. She's thrown herself at the mercy of the court," said Berardinelli, referring to the fact that the plea was non-negotiated.

"Although this is a very serious crime, she has also been the victim of violent crime. We'll ask the judge to take that into consideration," the lawyer added.

When sentenced on June 27 by Common Pleas Judge Glenn B. Bronson, Hicks faces the possibility of a maximum sentence of 40 to 80 years in state prison.

She would have received a mandatory life-without-parole sentence if convicted of first-degree murder by a jury.

Berardinelli said he hoped the judge would show leniency toward Hicks because she survived a horrific attack by a former boyfriend in April 1993. During the attack, he said, Hicks was stabbed 75 times and shot seven times - with one bullet still remaining in her head.

Had Hicks' case gone to trial, witnesses would have testified that she wanted Hayes dead because he may have been abusive toward her and he wanted her to move out because he planned to marry another woman, Assistant District Attorney Gail Fairman told Bronson.

Incriminating text messages between Hicks and Gonzalez, and cellphone records that disproved her claim that she was miles away at the time of the murder led police to arrest Hicks in July 2012.

It was never revealed what Gonzalez received in exchange for killing Hayes, Berardinelli said.

Gonzalez fled to Honduras before police could arrest him in 2012, but he was captured by the FBI Fugitive Task Force last August and brought back to Philadelphia.

He is also expected to plead guilty at his next court date, on April 23, sources said.