A 14-year-old girl pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter on Tuesday, politely describing how she repeatedly beat and choked a Burlington County woman during a gang attack in Camden.
Shatara Shakira Carter entered the surprise plea in Superior Court in Camden, where she admitted she helped "finish off" 18-year-old Muriah Ashley Huff after Huff's boyfriend, Michael "Doc Money" Hawkins, had been beaten and shot in the head.
The Burlington County couple were tortured by members of the Bloods street gang who were enraged that Hawkins, 23, associated with the rival Crips, sources said.
Carter is the first, of 10 people charged, to plead guilty in the slayings that unfolded on Feb. 22 in the Berkley Street rowhouse where Carter lived with several relatives, including her mother and brother.
"At some point, did you put your hands around her neck and strangle her?" Carter's public defender Kevin Lewis asked during Tuesday's hearing.
"Yes, sir," responded Carter, who was dressed in a lavender shirt and jeans, her movements restricted by handcuffs chained to her waist. Carter said the gang's leader, Kuasheim "Presto" Powell, 24, told her to take Huff to another room while he shot Hawkins.
Carter's brother, Dennis Welch, 19, previously told authorities he helped assault Hawkins as the women, including his and Carter's mother, were in another room listening to music.
When Powell joined the women, Welch told authorities his mother appeared surprised by the attack and started screaming. Welch said he took his mother to a nearby bedroom and covered her ears as the others continued the attack.
"He [Powell] pistol-whipped her with the gun two times in the head," Carter said in court Tuesday. "He told me to finish her off."
Powell, she said, broke a chair beating Huff. Carter said she picked up a piece of the chair and repeatedly hit Huff, but she didn't die.
Everyone agreed she could not live, Carter said. Keenan Wideman, 17, Carter said, stabbed Huff while Darryl Pierre, 19, and Clive Hines, 18, put a plastic bag over her head and slipped a rope around her neck. Carter said she, too, tried to stab Huff.
Carter said they choked Huff with the rope until she was dead.
It's the first time any of those charged gave a detailed account in court of what happened that afternoon. All have given statements to investigators, most confessing their parts.
Aside from Carter, however, they have all pleaded not guilty.
Although no other deals have been made, authorities expect several others will plead guilty. Authorities have not ruled out additional charges and confirmed Tuesday there were several adults in the house who were aware of what was happening, but did not participate.
Last month, Lewis indicated he would oppose efforts to prosecute Carter as an adult.
On Tuesday, Carter told Juvenile Court Judge Angelo DiCamillo she wanted to waive her juvenile hearing and move to adult court to plead guilty to the lesser manslaughter charge.
In exchange, prosecutors said they will recommend a 20-year sentence, which would allow Carter to escape a possible life sentence.
Before deputies escorted Carter to adult court, the teen turned and blew a kiss to her mother, who had earlier tried to address the judge as she shook her head in disagreement and said her daughter didn't understand. Afterward, she declined to comment.
Camden County Assistant Prosecutor Tim Chatten explained that once Carter left juvenile court, she could not return.
"It's a one-way street," Chatten said.
Later, before Judge Thomas Brown, Carter said she wanted to apologize to Huff's family seated in the courtroom. Brown said that opportunity would come at sentencing, which he set for July 9.
Huff family members have attended every court proceeding, but they have declined to comment. Camden County Assistant Prosecutor Mary Alison Albright said they were "devastated" by losing Huff, a cosmetology student at the Burlington County Institute of Technology.
She said Huff had been looking forward to her prom, graduation, and a trip to Texas with her grandmother to visit relatives.