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Man Pleads Guilty to 7 Slayings in Pa.

February 4, 2003

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ A man whose confession two years ago to helping kill seven people was initially ignored because other suspects had already been charged pleaded guilty in the case Monday.

Shihean Black, 20, agreed to a deal that will give him seven consecutive life terms in prison. In return, prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty.

Four men initially charged in the murders were jailed 18 months before prosecutors acknowledged on the eve of their trial that they were innocent.

Black, to be sentenced in April, is the second man to plead guilty in the slayings. Bruce Veney, 26, who allegedly served as a lookout, pleaded guilty in November.

The parents of several victims sobbed as Black entered his plea.

``I just want to know who killed my son,″ said Veronica Conyers, the mother of victim Calvin Helton.

Three people were wounded and seven killed on Dec. 28, 2000, when four masked men burst into a row house, forced the people inside to lie on the floor, and opened fire. Police said the killings were part of a battle over drug turf.

The three survivors said they didn’t recognize their attackers, but police obtained a confession from Jermel Lewis, an acquaintance of one of the victims. He fingered three other men as accomplices.

Weeks later, police were caught off guard when Black, who had been arrested on an unrelated charge, confessed. Police and prosecutors wrote off his statements, and the four initial suspects spent another 18 months in jail awaiting trial.

Prosecutors charged the current suspects _ Black, Veney, Dawud Faruqi and Khalid Faruqi _ in November. The Faruqi brothers maintain their innocence.

The four original defendants last month sued the city and the police department, seeking compensation for their time in jail. Lewis claims his false confession was coerced.

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