MOUNT VERNON, New York (WABC) --The 21-year-old man charged with second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of a 13-year-old basketball star made his first court appearance Tuesday.
David Hardy pleaded not guilty in the death of Shamoya McKenzie, who was struck in the head by a stray bullet while on her way home from practice on New Year's Eve.
It was revealed Tuesday night that Hardy had been employed as a maintenance worker for the City of Mount Vernon, but had just been terminated last month for failure to show up to work.
McKenzie's family left court after seeing for themselves the man accused of killing the teenager, who had big dreams of playing basketball at the University of Connecticut and then in the WNBA. The arrest was the conclusion of a manhunt that involved FBI agents along the East Coast, after federal, state, county and local police vowed to quickly find the person responsible.
Her heartbroken relatives are still struggling to make sense of it all.
"It's still fresh, still hurts," the victim's aunt, Dawn Wood, said. "And seeing this young man that's almost Shamoya's age, to take her life away from us. She was everybody's baby."
McKenzie was sitting in the family's car when the struck her, an innocent bystander in what authorities are calling a gang feud. Hardy allegedly fired at a rival named Prince Scott, who was injured. He was arrested in Mount Vernon Monday but had left New York shortly after the shooting.
"We believe he went down south," Westchester County District Attorney Anthony Scarpino said. "We believe to South Carolina, and just returned shortly before he was arrested."
Hundreds of mourners packed the Macedonia Baptist Church on Friday to bid a final farewell to McKenzie, who was buried at Mount Hope Cemetery in Greenburgh on Saturday.
Last week, she was made an honorary member of the UConn women's basketball team. Coach Geno Auriemma said he decided to make the gesture after hearing her story, and he also sent McKenzie's family a team jersey with her number, 30, along with a letter that read, "Once a Husky, Always a Husky."
"I don't know that it makes anything any better," Auriemma said Tuesday night after his Huskies won their 90th consecutive game. "But, it was just our way of saying, 'You didn't get a chance to be here, but you kind of are.'"
McKenzie, who was 6-foot-2, was already playing for Mount Vernon's junior varsity high school team and had just been called up to the varsity team the day she died. She was described by Mount Vernon school officials and coaches as excellent student, athlete and role model.