Man’s request to withdraw plea deal in 7-year-old’s death denied

Heidy Villanueva died when she was struck by a bullet during a shootout on Jacksonville’s Westside

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A judge on Thursday denied a man’s request to withdraw his plea deal in the death of a 7-year-old girl who was caught in the midst of a shootout on Jacksonville’s Westside.

Heidy Rivas-Villanueva was killed after she was struck by a bullet during an exchange of gunfire at a shopping center in August 2018. Stanley Harris III pleaded guilty to third-degree murder in the child’s death.

Harris argued that prosecutors didn’t have sufficient evidence.

But, a judge told Harris that he had “buyer’s remorse” after the plea deal.

Harris tried to argue that he didn’t understand all of the evidence that was presented in his plea deal and that he felt his third-degree murder conviction shouldn’t stand because prosecutors didn’t prove the bullet that killed Heidy came from his weapon. Harris’ attorney argued that prosecutors didn’t check the trajectory of all the bullets at the scene.

Ultimately, the judge said Harris’ argument wasn’t credible.

After the ruling, News4Jax spoke with Angelica Rivas-Villanueva, Heidy’s mother, with help from a language interpreter. She said she’s relieved the plea deal stands.

The family has retained a lawyer, Millicent Daniels, to sue the shopping plaza where the shootout occurred, arguing there weren’t adequate safety measures in place.

“This is not an isolated incident. This particular area around 103rd (Street) is notorious for incidents like this,” Daniels said. “This has to stop. It’s happening all across the city from the Beaches to the Southside to the Northside to the Westside. Families should not have to go through this. No parent should have to bury their child.”

A sentencing hearing for Harris is still scheduled for Jan. 27.

Harris is one of four men who were arrested after the shootout. Edward Garcia pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact, Abrion Price pleaded guilty to second-degree felony murder and Trevonte Phoenix pleaded guilty to second-degree felony murder.

About the Author: