Man sentenced to seven life terms for killings

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

PHILADELPHIA -- A man who confessed to killing seven people in one of the worst massacres in Philadelphia history was sentenced to seven consecutive life terms Monday in a case in which police originally arrested the wrong men.

Shihean Black, 21, pleaded guilty in February in the December 2000 bloodbath, in which four masked men burst into a rowhouse, ordered people inside to lie down and then opened fire, killing seven and wounding three.

In return for Black's plea, prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty.

Judge Benjamin Lerner praised Black for his willingness to come forward, even when police at first did not believe his confession.

Police initially believed the killings were part of a battle over drug turf. But prosecutors later said the slayings were touched off by a dispute over a car with a broken clutch.

Four men were freed last summer on the eve of their trial after police acknowledged that they had arrested the wrong people.

Although three survivors said they did not recognize their attackers, police quickly obtained a confession from a friend of one of the victims who then fingered three other men as his accomplices.

Several weeks later, Black, who had been arrested on an unrelated charge, confessed to participated in the slayings. Police initially did not believe him and the four suspects spent 18 more months in jail.

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