It may have been the end, but even after the sentencing of the last man convicted of shooting and paralyzing her young son, it brought no closure for Alicia Wright.
"I want to say I understand, but 62 to 125 years, that is not enough time," Wright told Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Rayford A. Means. "I don't think anybody knows what it's like looking at death in the eye."
Death did not claim Wright's 6-year-old son Jabar that day in Strawberry Mansion two years ago. But the gunfire sprayed at his grandfather's car severed Jabar's spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed below the neck.
Yesterday, Wright testified briefly at the sentencing of Raheem Collins, 27, the last of three men to be sentenced in the Jan. 28, 2006, ambush that authorities say was part of a feud between rival neighborhood youths.
"His mother can still come and give him a hug," Wright said as Collins sat, handcuffed, staring at her. "I'd give anything for my baby to be able to put his arms around me and give me a hug."
Means imposed the same sentence on Collins that he did in April on codefendants Donte Rollins, 21, Collins' cousin, and Chris Powell, 20.
Collins, who has insisted he was not involved in the shooting, said nothing during the brief hearing at the Criminal Justice Center.
Defense attorney Michael F. Giampietro noted that Collins' relatives came to show their support in court and in the appeal to be filed.
"Obviously, this a tragedy that should not ever happen any place, anytime, anywhere," Giampietro told the judge. "My client still maintains he was not involved, but he has expressed to me that he is very sorry that what happened happened."
Means said the string of consecutive sentences - the maximum possible on Collins' convictions on attempted murder, aggravated assault and related charges - was needed to protect the public.
Means, who has called the case a "poster child" for the "cycle of violence that grips the city today," said probation for Collins "has not worked and will not work."
Assistant District Attorney Deborah Cooper Nixon told Means that "I don't know that these defendants could ever learn their lesson. This defendant was closest to the car. He looked LaRhonda [Wright, Jabar's grandmother] in the eye. He could have called it off, and yet he fired."
About 7:45 p.m. Jan. 28, 2006, Jabar was riding in a car driven by his grandfather, Benjamin Wright. The boy's grandmother was in the front passenger seat and the Wrights' daughter, Aneena, 10, was in back with Jabar. The family was heading home after seeing the movie
Big Momma's House
As Wright's car was on Westmont Street approaching 29th Street, police said, several men approached the vehicle and began shooting.
Benjamin Wright has said he believes he was targeted in an ongoing street war between two rival groups of young men because members of both factions played in a basketball league he ran in Strawberry Mansion.
That animosity was palpable yesterday in court, where relatives of victim and convicted sat uneasily about 10 feet apart, occasionally trading angry glares.
Afterward, Alicia Wright said that her family still gets threats she believes are related to the shooting and that the family has been forced to "move from house to house."
As for Jabar, he remains in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the neck down and unable to breathe on his own. He lives in a nursing facility that Wright said is 11 miles away.
Wright wore a large round badge with a photo of Jabar smiling in his wheelchair. Around the edge are the words: "Life sentence for him How 'bout them?"
Wright said Jabar had just been released from a hospital, where he was treated for a stomach infection that could have been fatal. "He's never going to leave that chair. This is his life sentence."