MAYS LANDING — "I shot her and I shot him," Philip Byrd said matter-of-factly as pleaded guilty Wednesday in the fatal 2011 carjacking from an Atlantic City casino garage.
Three men abducted the Middlesex County couple from the Trump Taj Mahal as the pair were leaving for home.
"I ran up and they (were) in the car," Byrd, 21, told the judge. "I grabbed the dude and I put him in the back seat and I told her to drive to the destination."
That destination turned out to be an alley off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Atlantic City. He then shot both.
Sunil Rattu, 28, of Old Bridge, was killed. His 24-year-old girlfriend, Radha Ghetia, of Parlin, was wounded.
If convicted, Byrd could have faced life in prison without parole. The plea agreement calls for a 47-year sentence with no parole for 85 percent — about 39 years 11 months. Depending on time served, he could be free by the time he turns 60.
Byrd is the second of three Camden men to plead guilty in the case. In December, Eric Darden, also 21, admitted to his role in the fatal attack. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison, and must serve 30.
The third suspect, Raheem Simmons, 19, will be before Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury on Thursday, when he could also take a plea deal, according to indications made by his attorney at a hearing last month.
"If Mr. Byrd elects to plead, I know that will absolutely impact whether we dispose of this case or not," John Bjorklund told the judge.
He has been offered a 30-year sentence. If he doesn't take that deal Thursday, he will go to trial.
The three men were identified and arrested within days of the fatal attack. During a press conference at the time, then-Atlantic County Prosecutor Ted Housel played surveillance video that he said showed the men had been stalking other parking garages looking for potential victims.
After his arrest, Byrd gave a videotaped statement indicating Darden was the shooter. But when Darden pleaded guilty, he said his gun was not used and that Byrd was the killer — and the one who decided what would happen.
In court Wednesday, Byrd backed that claim when DeLury asked what happened after Ghetia was forced to drive from the garage.
"We stopped at the destination," Byrd said. "I shot her and I shot him."
Byrd is currently serving a prison sentence on a weapons charge.
He and Simmons also have pending charges related to a double homicide in Camden. In that case, two men were found shot to death inside a car July 26, 2011.
Simmons was charged first in the case, then Byrd was charged after investigators allegedly found a phone under the car with text messages between the two about the killing.
Byrd said he understood that the Atlantic County plea did not involve the Camden charges when asked in court by his attorney, Ed Weinstock.
Sentencing is set for June 7.
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