Two men sentenced to a total of 140 years in prison for the killing of a 13-year-old girl caught in the crossfire of two rival gangs. Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez announced the gang members’ conviction on April 20, 2009.
Mwenda Murithi, 27, and Tony Serrano, 20, were responsible for the murder of Shanna Gayden, a 13-year-old girl. On June 27, 2007, Gayden was struck by a bullet to her head, causing her to die the next morning at the Children’s Memorial Hospital. On the one hand, Murithi, who ordered the gang-related shooting, was sentenced by the Cook County Circuit Court Judge Nicholas Ford to 55 years in prison. On the other hand, Serrano, who was ordered to fire the shots, received 85-year imprisonment. Court Judge Ford called their behavior “cowardly” and “inexplicable” in the double jury trial to convict the defendants in February. Furthermore, the two men shall serve 100 percent of their sentences, said State’s, Attorney Anita Alvarez.
Gayden was with her 15-year-old cousin at the playground of Funston Elementary School when the shooting occurred. According to court testimony, the playground is located at 2032 N. Central Park in the city’s Logan Square neighborhood, where Murithi, along with his gang members, engaged in a verbal altercation with their rival gang. During the acrimonious dispute, Murithi has called a fellow gang member to join them and instruct him to bring a gun. The succeeding occurrence has then resulted in the death of Gayden.
“This case represents another senseless and tragic slaying of an innocent child by gang members who have no regard for human life,” said State’s Attorney Alvarez in a statement regarding the case. “This [the combined 140-year indictment] is a fitting and appropriate sentence. We thank the many members of the community who stepped up and spoke out during this trial to help obtain justice for this young victim and her family.”
Multiple witnesses have identified Serrano as the shooter and testified to have heard Murithi commanding Serrano to fire shots on the rival gang members. Murithi is a Kenya native who has been in the United States illegally after his student visa had expired. After ordering another gang member to retrieve a gun from the ceiling of Serrano’s basement, Murithi commanded Serrano to fire along the rival gang’s area. Serrano fired six rounds scattered through the nearby playground, thereby having the death of Gayden collateral damage.
“This child would take her birthday money and buy Christmas presents for everyone else. … Knowing her, she’s probably forgiven them. She may have forgiven them, but I hate them. I have a fiery hatred for both,” Rita Sallie, the mother of Schanna Gayden, announced after the indictment of her child’s murderers.
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez applauded Assistant State’s Attorneys Brian Holmes, Michael Golden, and George Canellis for their outstanding work. The Assistant State’s Attorneys belong to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office Gang Crimes Unit and Special Prosecutions Bureau.
Updated: July 20, 2020