Tom Korte, AP, July 16, 2007
Carissa McGee, the former Mayfield High basketball star accused of stabbing her mother and sister, today pleaded no contest and could face up to 21 years in prison.
McGee, 18, entered her plea this morning to two counts each of attempted first-degree murder and aggravated battery against a household member. A no-contest plea means McGee did not admit guilt but accepted that the prosecution likely had enough evidence for a conviction if the case went to trial.
Her plea came in a courtroom packed with about 50 people, including her mother and sister, who sobbed and clutched tissues when McGee entered the courtroom escorted by Dona Ana County sheriff’s deputies.
Several of McGee’s former teammates at Mayfield filled the front row in the spectator’s section of the courtroom.
State District Judge Robert Robles accepted the plea, then began a two-day hearing to determine whether McGee will be sentenced as a juvenile or an adult.
If sentenced as an adult, her prison term could be as long as 21 years.
McGee earlier pleaded not guilty to the charges. Her no-contest plea came in an agreement with prosecutors.
Prosecutors said if the case went to trial, they could prove McGee’s acts were premeditated and at least one week before the attack she had planned to kill her mother. She had stolen some family china and simulated a break-in, then planned to kill her mother and go back to bed so her sister would discover the killing, prosecutors said.
Instead, when McGee began attacking her mother in the bedroom, Marie McGee responded and was attacked when she tried to intervene, prosecutors said.
“You’re killing me! You’re killing me!” she screamed at her daughter.
Carissa McGee, meanwhile, went to another residence and told neighbors someone had attacked her family.
From the way she bounced, you’d think a Disney cartoonist created her.
Shoulder shrugs, flying hands and joyful head-bobbing marked Carissa McGee’s dance at the intersection of athletic greatness and personal happiness.
A talent of prodigious ability and potential, Carissa had dominated athletics throughout her high school career, especially at the 2006 girls state basketball tournament in Albuquerque, where she attracted notice with an infectious, seemingly joyful personality.
But less than three weeks after those heady days in March, Carissa’s promise and sweetness evaporated in what police said was a vicious attack on her family—a stabbing so brutal that it left her mother and sister hospitalized and a community stunned.
Carissa’s mother, Anita McGee, 44, and Marie, 18, suffered 35 stab wounds in all, according to court records.
The girl who had everything going right—a 3.0 grade-point average, the likelihood of a big-time college basketball scholarship, a high school scrapbook to dream about—now faces a future forever scarred.
Charged with aggravated battery and attempted first-degree murder, Carissa, 17, awaits trial. A date has not been set.
Though her case resides in the state’s juvenile justice system—she has entered a denial of the charges—the Dona Ana County District Attorney’s Office has filed a motion to seek an adult sentence for two counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated battery.
If convicted as an adult on all counts, Carissa could face up to 24 years in prison, Assistant District Attorney Amy Orlando said. If convicted as a juvenile, Carissa must serve time until she is 21.
Court records say Las Cruces police arrived at the McGee home about 2:15 a.m. on March 27 to find Anita with 20 stab wounds and Marie with 15.
Officers also found two broken knife blades and blood throughout the house, the records state.
According to those records, Carissa found her mom outside the house, screaming “You’re trying to kill us,” and “Get away from me” shortly after the incident.
Carissa then knocked on the door of neighbors, who called the police, the records say. Anita and Marie told officers that Carissa stabbed them, records say.
Carissa was jailed after the incident and has also spent time in a behavioral health hospital in the Las Cruces area, as prosecutors agreed she needed specialized treatment.
Orlando said the brutality of the crime merits an adult sentence. Michal Mokryn, a public defender representing Carissa, declined to comment on this issue.