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TEEN IS SENTENCED TO 5 TO 15 YEARS IN ARSON DEATH OF YOUNG GIRL

Mario Graves apologized today for the death of 6-year-old Le'Tia Benton in a fatal firebombing on Ruhland Avenue last summer.

He was ordered to serve a prison term of five to 15 years on reduced charges of first-degree manslaughter and second-degree arson in the case.

He is the first of three suspects in the case to face sentencing. Graves, 17, of Doat Street, told Erie County Judge Michael L. D'Amico he thought the house was vacant. He said he wakes up each day thinking about the child.

D'Amico told him he understood he and Jerome Barber, 17 of Broadway were just "followers" of Carlos "Brewer" Toliver, the mastermind of the fatal arson. But, D'Amico told Graves he had to impose the prison term because "a life was lost."

Graves and Barber have been jailed, along with Toliver, at the Erie County Holding Center since last June.

Graves will be eligible for parole consideration in about four years, court officials said.

D'Amico declined to comment on the impending sentencing of Barber, but court sources said Barber, who will be sentenced Thursday on the same charges, will likely also get a five-to-15-year term.

D'Amico told Graves that Toliver, who pleaded guilty March 21 to second-degree murder and first-degree arson "will pay the price" when he is sentenced May 3 for causing the fatality.

Toliver faces a mandatory prison term of 15 to 25 years to life.

Graves and Barber both pleaded guilty Dec. 14 to the reduced charges and told the judge Toliver told them he wanted to burn down what he described as a vacant rental house on Ruhland to get even with the management company landlord who supervised the house.

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