Jail for N. Philly mom whose daughter, 4, fatally shot self

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Shakeya Holmes, seen here in an old photo on her Facebook page, with her daughter, Sani, who fatally shot herself Thursday, June 23, 2016.

A North Philadelphia mother whose 4-year-old daughter fatally shot herself with a gun in their home last year, and who initially lied to police about the circumstances, was sentenced in court Friday to two to four years in state prison.

Shakeya Holmes, 26, was also sentenced to 12 years' probation in the death of her daughter, Sani.

"Your actions after this incident were reprehensible," Common Pleas Court Judge J. Scott O'Keefe told Holmes. "There's absolutely no reason for what you did, for your lying."

Holmes pleaded guilty Jan. 25 to charges of involuntary manslaughter, endangering the welfare of a child, hindering prosecution, reckless endangerment and possession of an instrument of crime.

About noon June 23, she was in her kitchen on 20th Street near Berks Street when Sani found a loaded Glock in a doorless closet of her mother's second-floor bedroom and shot herself just above her right eye while playing with her 3-year-old sister. 

Sani was pronounced dead about an hour later at Hahnemann University Hospital.

The gun belonged to Holmes' boyfriend, Demetrius Williams, who also lived in the house and who, as a convicted felon, was not allowed to carry a gun. Williams, now 27, was also arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter and related offenses. He faces a Jan. 8, 2018, trial.

He is the father of Holmes' youngest daughter, but not the father of Sani or Holmes' oldest daughter, 7. 

Assistant District Attorney Kristen Kemp, who asked for a sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison, described Holmes' behavior before and after the shooting as "extreme recklessness" and "inexcusable."

The gun was kept in an unsecure location and the girls knew Williams had it, she said. After Holmes discovered that Sani shot herself, she tried to wash the blood off her daughter, then ran outside and screamed for help, left her daughter on the front step, and called 911.

Holmes initially told police Sani was struck by a bullet from outside the house. She later admitted there was a gun in the house, but lied about whose it was.

Kemp showed the judge footage of videos from police body cameras after officers arrived to the house. Officers found the gun in a backpack on the floor of the closet, where Holmes had put it after finding it lying next to her dying daughter.

During one emotional moment, an officer is heard on video saying: "Unbelievable. Whenever I see this stuff, I picture my own child."

When asked whose gun it was, a hysterical Holmes told police: "I don't know. I found it in the projects."

While the video played, Holmes, who sat at the defense table, put her hands to her ears.

About six hours later that day, while in an interview room at the police Homicide Unit, she admitted to detectives that the gun belonged to Williams.

Kemp contended Holmes lied to police because her "priorities at that time were to protect herself and her boyfriend."

Holmes apologized to the judge for her lies. "I honestly believed I was protecting my child at the time," she said. She insisted it wasn't true that she put her boyfriend before her children.

Stephen Gross, one of Holmes' public defenders, told the judge Holmes cares deeply for her daughters. "She talks about Sani as if she were alive now," he said. "She made an awful mistake."

"She's not a threat to anybody, she's suffered enough," he said.

Holmes' grandmother, Jeanette Holmes, told the judge her granddaughter "was a good mom." After she finished speaking, the grandmother, crying, collapsed to her knees in the gallery and was escorted out by family members.

Public defender Geoffrey Kilroy asked the judge to recommend for Holmes to enter the state prison system's boot camp, which the judge agreed to. If accepted, she would participate in a six-month military-style program, which centers around treatment, education, work and self-discipline. Inmates who successfully complete the program could receive early parole.