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York City teen shooter gets 8-16 years, victim's parents frustrated
The parents of shooting victim Shyhiem McDowell were back in York County Court — one month after they convinced a judge to nix a plea deal for McDowell's teenage attacker.
This time around, presiding Common Pleas Judge Craig T. Trebilcock approved a negotiated plea agreement for Hydiea Banks.
Now 18, Banks was 16 years old when she shot McDowell in the head during a robbery Jan. 9, 2016, in an alley to the rear of the 300 block of Girard Avenue in York City. She was charged as an adult.
McDowell, now 20, was gravely wounded and spent five months hospitalized. He returned home but is disabled and will never be able to live independently, according to his family.
At her guilty-plea hearing Thursday, Dec. 7, a tearful, apologetic Banks pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and was sentenced to eight to 16 years in state prison. She was given credit for the nearly two years she's already spent in York County Prison.
Charges of attempted homicide and robbery were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
Second chance: At the start of the hearing, Trebilcock reminded Banks that her last attempt to plead guilty "did not go well" because she was not forthcoming with him about her crime.
This time around, Banks answered all of the judge's questions. She said she'd slept over at McDowell's home the night before — the two were platonic friends — and the next day she led him into the alley.
Her ersatz stepfather, Anthony Donnell Johnson, followed them, pulled a gun on McDowell and instructed Banks to go through his pockets, she told the judge. The case against Johnson is still pending, according to court records.
Banks said she took cash, cellphone, drugs and a gun from McDowell, then gave the cash and drugs to her stepfather. She said she kept McDowell's gun and phone.
Banks said Johnson took off after getting the cash and drugs, leaving her alone in the alley with McDowell.
"That's when me and him started fighting and ... the gun went off," she said.
Was there a bounty? Trebilcock asked Banks whether she knew about a supposed bounty on McDowell's head, which the victim's family told the judge about at the last hearing.
"At the time I didn't know much (about it)," Banks said, adding she later learned there was a bounty on McDowell's head. Banks maintains she didn't shoot McDowell for the bounty.
Banks' first attempt to plead guilty before Judge Trebilcock, at a Nov. 9 hearing, ended with the judge refusing to accept the agreement after Banks failed to satisfy his questions.
At that hearing, he asked Banks where she got the gun used to shoot McDowell, and she replied, "I don't know."
On Thursday, she claimed she took the gun from McDowell during the robbery.
McDowell's parents, Shelaneia Sullivan and Edward McDowell, said they doubt that's the truth because if it was, Banks simply would have said that during her first attempt to plead guilty.
Banks also said in court, "I told him I didn't want to do this and I was sorry."
Edward McDowell questioned how Banks could have apologized to his son if the two of them were involved in a struggle during which she shot him.
The grieving father said his son was shot on the top of the head, "execution-style," and said the family is dissatisfied with the plea agreement.
"It's a serious slap in the face," he said.
Three hours' notice: Shyhiem McDowell's parents said they received three hours' notice about Thursday's 1:30 p.m. guilty-plea hearing.
The hearing did not initially appear on Thursday's York County Court's daily calendar. An official with the county Clerk of Courts office said they received notice of the hearing from Trebilcock's chambers about 10 a.m. Thursday, and added it to the calendar shortly afterward.
Sullivan and Edward McDowell said they felt the treatment they received from the York County District Attorney's Office changed after they convinced Trebilcock to nix the plea agreement on Nov. 9 — and also after they spoke with The York Dispatch.
Asked why the hearing was held on such short notice, chief deputy prosecutor David Maisch said the judge set the hearing and that he got as much notice about it as the family did. Typically in York County, judges don't unilaterally set hearing dates without input from the prosecution and defense.
"I feel like the justice system failed us," Sullivan said, adding it was difficult to break the news to her disabled son.
'No life anymore': "It was hard," she said. "He said it's not fair. He has no life anymore."
Sullivan said there were people in her family who wanted to speak in court about how her son's shooting has affected them, but with just three hours' notice, they couldn't make it. That included her father and her 13-year-old daughter, who was in school, Sullivan said.
"They wouldn't give me an answer as to why," she said.
Anita Sullivan, the victim's grandmother, did make it to court on Thursday and addressed the judge, saying she believes the attack was planned, not spur of the moment.
"It hurts everybody to see the condition my grandson is in. ... He will never be the same," she said. "He'll serve out his sentence for the rest of his life."
Banks was remorseful in court Thursday, saying what she did was wrong and that at the time she didn't think "it would be (taken) that far."
'I did that': She asked to speak directly to Shyhiem McDowell's family, then stood and turned to them.
"I'm sorry. I wish I could take that back," Banks told them as tears streamed down her face. "I know you all will never forgive me, and that's all right."
She said she still has nightmares about shooting her friend.
"I was there," she said. "I did that."
After accepting Banks' guilty plea, Trebilcock said nothing the courts can do could make things right for the victim.
"I understand the family is angry and is unsatisfied," he said.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.