2nd suspect in schoolyard shooting pleads guilty

September 21, 2010 2:29:28 PM PDT
Jury selection for Melvin Jovel's trial was supposed to start next week. Now that the 21 year old has admitted to shooting all four victims, the families will be spared yet another painful trial.

"It took me a while, a lot of prayer, but I forgive them," Shalga Hightower said.

Ever since her 20-year old daughter Lofemi was murdered, Hightower spends a lot of time at the Christian Love Baptist Church in Irvington.

With the help of her pastor, Ron Christian, she has managed to forgive the young men who killed her daughter and two friends and who seriously wounded a fourth.

"I don't want people to forget my daughter and her friends. Their memory has to live on," she said.

Hightower was in court Tuesday when defendant Jovel confessed to the shocking crime.

The 21-year-old admits he was the triggerman in the Aug. 4, 2007, attack behind Mount Vernon Elementary School that killed 20-year-old Lofemi Hightower, 18-year-old Terrance Aeriel and 20-year-old Dashon Harvey. Aeriel's sister, now 22-year-old Natasha, was shot in the face and survived. All four were friends, and promising students and musicians at Delaware State.

The plea deal spares the families the agony of having to sit through another trial full of graphic evidence and testimony.

"I was also relieved because I didn't have to go through another trial so soon after the first," Hightower said.

Hightower plans to speak at the sentencing in November -- not about Jovel, but about her daughter Lofemi, who was creative and ambitious, already designing her future business cards before she started college.

"I can forgive, but I can never forget," she said. "She didn't hold grudges and even though she was my daughter and was taken away, I can't do it.

The first suspect to stand trial, Rodolfo Godinez, was found guilty and sentenced to 245 years in prison.

The four remaining defendants, 31-year-old Jose Carranza, 18-year-old Shaheed Baskerville, 20-year-old Alexander Alfaro and 18-year-old Gerardo Gomez, remain in jail.