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Guilt admitted in mistaken killing

With his own mother and relatives of his slain victim weeping in the courtroom, a learning-impaired West Side teenager pleaded guilty Tuesday to fatally shooting a young West Seneca woman and wounding her boyfriend early last Christmas morning. The shootings apparently were a case of mistaken identity.

Miguel Torro-Torres, 18, of Pennsylvania Street, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of first-degree manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Sarah Ernst, 18. He also pleaded guilty to attempted murder in the shooting of her boyfriend, Brion Collins, 19.

Torro-Torres faces a 30-year prison term when he is sentenced Nov. 30 along with co-defendant Anthony Echevarrio, 16, of West Avenue. Prosecutors told Erie County Judge Sheila A. DiTullio that the outcome was acceptable to Ernst's family.

In August, Echevarrio pleaded guilty to manslaughter and agreed to testify against Torro-Torres. DiTullio committed to imposing the maximum 3 1/2 - to 10-year prison term on Echevarrio, who faces less time because he was 15 at the time of the shootings and was considered a juvenile offender.

Collins was not in court for Tuesday's guilty plea. Family members of Ernst, a 2008 graduate of West Seneca East High School, declined to comment.

Prosecutors James F. Bargnesi and Michael P. Felicetta said the defendants got into a dispute with members of a rival gang at a Christmas party on 14th Street and stuck around, planning to shoot their rivals.

The prosecutors said Collins was driving a sport utility vehicle similar to one owned by the intended victim and was wounded when shots were fired into his vehicle as he drove off with Ernst at about 2:20 a.m. Dec. 25. She was fatally wounded and pronounced dead at the scene, prosecutors said.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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