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Shooter takes plea deal in 7-year-old's death

Shooter takes plea deal in 7-year-old's death



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SALT LAKE CITY -- The teenager accused of killing a 7-year-old girl during a drive-by shooting pleaded guilty to first-degree felony murder.

The Deseret News reports Gabriel Alvarez, now 17, entered the plea Friday as part of a deal.

Alvarez admitted to firing the shot that killed Maria Menchaca outside her Salt Lake City home on July 6. Prosecutors say the gunfire was intended for her older cousin. The shooting was part of a dispute between members of rival gangs.

Originally he was charged with aggravated murder, for which he could have faced life in prison without the possibility of parole. Now Alvarez will face 16 years to life in prison. His sentencing is set for June 3.

Prosecutors also dropped a charge of obstruction of justice as part of the plea deal.

Maria Menchaca's parents were in court Friday, but declined to comment.

Co-defendant Mae Goodman Johnson, 16, previously pleaded guilty to manslaughter in adult court and awaits sentencing.

Frank Benavidez, 21, still faces charges of aggravated murder and obstruction of justice in the case.

(Copyright 2008 Bonneville International Corporation. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or distributed. AP contributed to this report.)

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