JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A fourth man charged after 7-year-old Heidy Rivas-Villanueva was killed when caught in the middle of a shootout in a Westside shopping center last year pleaded guilty on Tuesday morning.
Stanley Harris III, 20, faces at least 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to third-degree murder and discharging a firearm from a vehicle.
Heidy was sitting in a parked car with her father and sister on Aug. 11, 2018, at a Westside strip mall when she was struck in the head by the crossfire. Heidy died in her father’s arms at the hospital.
Prosecutors said trajectory patterns and other evidence, including video surveillance, revealed the bullet that struck the little girl in the head was fired from Harris’ gun.
Abrion Price, 23, and Trevonte Phoenix, 18, have already pleaded guilty to second-degree murder charges. Edward Garcia, 29, has pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact. Garcia’s mother, Kezia Holmes, is awaiting trial for tampering with evidence.
Jacksonville police said 13 shots were fired as a result of what was apparently a planned robbery in the parking lot of an IHOP restaurant next to the plaza where Heidy was shot. Phoenix and Price arranged the setup over social media under the pretense of a gun sale, police said.
Harris, a friend of the buyer, served as a lookout in another car as the deal went down, police said. When guns were drawn, he exchanged shots with Phoenix and Price as they ran away and Heidy was hit in the shootout.
In video of interviews with each of the men after their arrests were released earlier this year, Harris denied any involvement in the girl’s death.
Harris: “That’s a pretty little girl." (looking at picture detectives brought of Heidy) Detective: “It is. That is a pretty little girl. She was a happy, pretty little girl until you shot her in the head."
Harris: “I don’t want to be here no more than you want me to be here, especially for something like this.” Detective: “Well, I don’t mind being here, because I would do anything for this child.”
Detective: “You know what else I would do for this child? If it was my ... carelessness, or mistakes, I would admit to it, because she don’t deserve this.” Harris: “You’re right. She don’t.”
When Harris was left alone during the interview he got up and walked around the room, talking to himself. At one point, he picked up the picture of Heidy that detectives had left in the room, and then set it back down on the table, mumbling “this is crazy.”
Near the end of Harris' interrogation, he was asked what he would say to Heidy's family.
“Sorry for their loss, I guess.”
Heidy’s family was in the courtroom Tuesday morning for Harris’ plea deal. The family’s advocate with the Justice Coalition said it has been a long, emotional road for the family, but they’re pleased with the particulars of the plea deal.
Judge Mark Borello assigned a sentencing hearing date for Jan. 27. Victim impact statements from family members are expected at that time.