York teen murderer sentenced, motive unknown

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

A York City teen who wasn't even legal to drive when he gunned down a man in York City last year has pleaded guilty to murder.

Yonti Lablair Ritter, who turns 17 next month, appeared in York County Court on Monday, June 25, and pleaded guilty to third-degree murder.

Yonti Ritter

Ritter was 15 when he shot and killed 26-year-old Jimmy Avila-Velez Jr. in the 500 block of West Newton Avenue on Nov. 10, 2017.

In exchange for his plea, other charges, including first-degree murder, were dropped, and Ritter was sentenced to an agreed-upon 15 to 30 years in state prison.

He also was ordered to pay $6,500 in restitution to the state's Victims Compensation Assistance Program. That's to reimburse the program for funeral expenses, defense attorney Kevin Hoffman confirmed.

Ritter admitted to presiding Common Pleas Judge Michael E. Bortner that he killed Avila-Velez, but he provided no reason for committing the murder.

No known reason: York City detectives have not advanced a theory about motive.

"I would like to apologize to the family. I'm sorry for their loss," Ritter said in court, then apologized to his own family, which packed the defense side of the courtroom.

Yonti Ritter

Avila-Velez's parents were in court, as well.

The judge asked Ritter a series of questions to be certain the teen knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily made the decision to plead guilty.

That included asking whether the teen had discussed the plea agreement with his parents; Ritter said he had.

Court documents state that Ritter, who lived on Stone Avenue, was with three other people when he gunned down Avila-Velez. No one but Ritter has been charged.

The victim died of  gunshot wounds to the neck and torso, according to the York County Coroner's Office.

Senior deputy prosecutor David Maisch told Judge Bortner that his office had discussed the plea agreement with Avila-Velez's family and with the lead investigator. He said no one opposed it.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.