MAYS LANDING — The youngest of three Camden men accused in a fatal Atlantic City casino carjacking of a Middlesex County couple pleaded guilty Thursday.
Raheem Simmons, 19, was the last of the defendants to admit to felony murder in the Sept. 18, 2011, carjacking that killed Sunil Rattu, 28, and wounded his 24-year-old girlfriend, Radha Ghetia. He would have to serve all of a 30-year sentence under the plea agreement.
The fatal attack in Atlantic City is the third killing connected to Simmons. He is also charged with two counts of murder in the case of two men found dead in a car in Camden. If he pleads guilty in that case, the Camden County prosecutor has indicated Simmons could end up serving a concurrent sentence that would be no longer than the 30 years for the Atlantic City crime, Chief Assistant Prosecutor John Maher told the judge.
That means Simmons could be released on all three killings before he turns 50.
Rattu and Ghetia were preparing to leave the Trump Taj Mahal Casino parking garage just before 8 a.m. Sept. 18, 2011, when three men forced them to drive to an alley off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, where both were shot.
Simmons’ plea came a day after co-defendant Phillip Byrd, 21, admitted he was the shooter. A third man, Eric Darden, 21, has already been sentenced to 40 years for the crime. He must serve 30 years before he is eligible for parole.
There was a slight delay in Simmons’ plea Thursday morning, as his attorney told the judge Simmons did not want to answer questions about the crime.
But Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury told Simmons that he could not take the plea without those questions, and that — if the defendant chose not to answer them — the case would proceed to trial.
After speaking with his client briefly, attorney John Bjorklund told the judge: "It appears there's been a change of heart."
Simmons answered DeLury's questions with "yeah" or "no," rhythmically tapping his fingers on the table in front of him as he stood handcuffed in his orange jail clothing.
He said that he was not armed the day of the attack. When asked what happened, he replied: "I don't remember."
"Did somebody get killed?" DeLury asked.
"Who got killed?" the judge then asked.
Simmons gave Bjorklund a confused look.
"There was a man and a woman," the judge said.
"The man got killed," Simmons replied.
Simmons will be sentenced June 7 in Atlantic County, the same day as Byrd, who is also charged in the double homicide in Camden. The admitted shooter faces a 47-year term under the No Early Release Act, which requires him to serve 85 percent before he is eligible for parole.
Contact Lynda Cohen:
Follow Lynda Cohen on Twitter @LyndaCohen