A St. Paul man was sentenced Monday to 17 years in prison for the July murder of British Autavia Morris-Rice.

Damarcus L. Barnett, 30, pleaded guilty in Ramsey County District Court in September to second-degree unintentional murder in the killing on the city's West Side.

Before Judge Leonardo Castro handed down Barnett's sentence, Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Elizabeth Lamin told him that the murder was "senseless." Morris-Rice's family did not read victim impact statements in the courtroom.

Barnett's attorney, Ellen Seesel, told the judge that Barnett took responsibility for the murder by pleading guilty early in the legal process, and felt "quite terrible" about Morris-Rice's death.

"He never intended to hurt the victim," Seesel said.

Although Barnett pleaded guilty early, he evaded police for more than a month after the July 19 killing. He was charged via arrest warrant in late July and was booked into the Ramsey County jail on Aug. 21.

Morris-Rice, her male companion, Barnett and others were at a party on E. Delos Street the night of the shooting when Barnett scuffled with Morris-Rice's companion about 11:30 p.m. A witness saw two groups of men arguing and heard a woman pleading with them to stop. One man chased another, and as Morris-Rice drove out of a parking lot, Barnett fired into the car.

Morris-Rice, 22, crashed the car and died several hours later at Regions Hospital.

Barnett apologized to Morris-Rice's family before he was sentenced, saying that he didn't know how one could begin apologizing for taking a life.

Castro acknowledged that Barnett pleaded guilty early, but admonished him for his "life of crime," and for handling a gun that night with full knowledge of the consequences.

"You hold it, aim it, pull the trigger, and it's going to end up killing somebody," Castro said.

After the sentencing, Morris-Rice's family members said Barnett deserved more time and didn't appear sincere in court.

"He's not sorry," said her niece, Kalosha Minor. "You can't apologize for taking my auntie's life. I wish he could've gotten life."

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