Aliyah Smith fought on demand, ran away from home and raised hell at school. Her mother tried to rein her in, but no matter the tone of her voice – loud or soft – Catrina Kilgore said she couldn’t get through to her 15-year-old daughter.
In court Friday for the sentencing of Aliyah’s killer, Kilgore spoke about the weekend before she died.
“Aliyah took off and she wrote me this note,” Kilgore said. “It said, ‘I can’t do it, and I’m not going to take it no more. I want to clear my mind. Let me do me. I’m going to do what I want to do. I’m tired of you running my life.’ ”
Later, the girl called home. “ ‘When I come back, do what you want,’ ” Kilgore quoted her daughter as saying. “ ‘Kill me if you want to. Kill me if you have to. ... All I can say is I’m sorry for the troubles I’m causing you.’ ”
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The phone call infuriated Kilgore to the point that she said something “that will haunt me to the day I die,” she said.
“I said, ‘You know what? I don’t care. Stay where you at,’ ” she recounted, howling in pain.
It was the day after New Year’s Day in 2010. Kilgore said she had downed a couple of drinks, but got into her car anyway to find Aliyah.
She woke up in jail the next morning after getting arrested for drunken driving. “They said I had a visitor, and it was my two sisters-in-law and my (other) daughter, and I picked up the phone, and no one would come to the glass, no one, and they started crying, and I said, ‘What are you crying for? It’s OK. I’m just in jail,’ ” Kilgore told the courtroom.
“I focused on the face of my daughter Desiree (McCarty), and she was looking distraught, and I could read her lips, and she kept saying, ‘Aliyah is dead, Aliyah is dead,’ over and over, and I was in shock, unable to speak.”
Aliyah Smith was shot to death earlier that morning, Jan. 3, 2010, after getting into a fight with another girl and then taking cover in a south Sacramento home where she was confronted by a group of her adversary’s friends.
She had gained a reputation at River City High School in West Sacramento as a bright kid who wanted to be a dancer and a hairdresser. She wrote poetry and pulled good grades in classes that would get her into college, a teacher said at the time of her death.
At the trial of D’Andre Leon Monroe, who was found guilty of second-degree murder in the case, a Sacramento jury heard about Aliyah, the street kid. She was mean and tough and ready to roll in the mud if that’s what it took to get her point across.
The day after she bolted from home, Aliyah showed up at a house party on Belinda Way is south Sacramento where she got in the fight with the girl, witnesses said.
From the house on Belinda, she went to a friend’s apartment on nearby Nedra Court, where rivals came to call her out. She stayed inside, and they shot a gun in the air. She sneaked a peek through the window shade right when the shooter aimed at the apartment. The bullet hit her in the head and killed her on the spot.
Monroe fired the fatal bullet, and the 22-year-old paid for it Friday with a prison sentence of 40 years to life.
Marcel Bullard Jr., also 22, was charged with murder, too. The same Superior Court jury that convicted Monroe acquitted Bullard of murder but found him guilty of grossly negligent discharge of a firearm for one of the shots that went into the sky. For that and for a series of burglaries, Judge Eugene L. Balonon sentenced him to nine years and eight months in prison. With time served and additional credits, Bullard was expected to be released from custody by Friday night, his lawyer Ken Rosenfeld told the court.
Initially, 12 young people were arrested and charged with Aliyah’s death. Eight pleaded no contest to accessory to murder. Another pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter. Charges were dismissed for one.
Police detectives said it was one of the worst cases of lack of cooperation they’d ever seen, and the judge mulled the shooting’s circumstances before he sentenced Monroe and Bullard.
“Why did this occur at all?” Balonon asked the defendants. “Why go to Aliyah’s residence and get involved in a situation that didn’t involve either one of you? ... Why do these defendants get the gun, put on ski masks, put on gloves, and just fire the weapon? What was the point of that? Why get back in the car, to drive away, and why does anyone feel it’s necessary to fire a shot towards the house? What was the purpose of that? And those people who were present at the scene, why didn’t they cooperate with law enforcement?
“One question, I’m certain of the answer,” the judge continued. “Had there not been a gun possessed in this case, Aliyah would be alive today.”
Deputy District Attorney Thien Ho said the murder weapon was never recovered.
Before her daughter was killed, Kilgore said she tried to get Aliyah locked up in juvenile hall “to scare her.” She said she went to school with Aliyah and sat in the back of the room to help the teachers tame the wild one. She said she called police when Aliyah ran away, “and then I would just wait and pray that she would come home safe.”
When Aliyah died, Kilgore said she found her daughter’s diary and its report on “how she hated me, how I was ruining her life and not letting her live.”
“If only,” Kilgore said, “I’d have done a better job of ruining it.”