Phila. man sentenced to 25 years for shooting East Germantown woman

Posted: January 29, 2013

For all the trouble brewing outside on the streets of East Germantown, neighbors considered Gwendolyn Knox's in-house day care in the 5800 block of Morton Street a haven for their children.

But on Dec. 23, 2011, trouble in the form of a stray bullet found 53-year-old "GG" - her neighbors' nickname, for "Grandmom Gwen" or "Godmom Gwen" - inside her house. The shot burst through a second-floor window frame. It missed a 1-year-old she was caring for but shattered Knox's jaw, hit an artery, and lodged in her spine.

On Monday, the man found guilty of firing that shot in an apparent failed ambush of enemies in a car stopped near Knox's house was sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison.

Kairi Harris said nothing before he was sentenced by Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Daniel J. Anders, who said a long prison term was needed "for the protection of the public."

Although defense attorney David B. Mischak submitted letters from relatives describing a different side of the 35-year-old Harris, Assistant District Attorney Andrew Notaristefano called him violent and remorseless.

"He may be caring to his family," Notaristefano said, "but he certainly expresses not a care for anybody in the community."

Notaristefano said that in prison, Harris also threatened and tried to scare a witness from testifying against him.

According to court documents, Harris and his cousin Ahmae Harris, 23, were outside his Morton Street house when they spotted two men, apparent neighborhood nemeses, passing them in a car.

When the car reached a stop sign, authorities allege, the Harrises opened fire. They hit the car several times, but neither driver nor passenger.

Police counted 12 shots fired from two guns, 10 from a .40 caliber and two from a 9mm. One of those shots struck Knox.

The Harrises were arrested and charged with attempted murder, assault, conspiracy, and gun charges. Kairi Harris was found guilty by a jury on Nov. 9. Ahmae Harris was granted a separate trial, which has been set for Oct. 7.

Notaristefano praised police for immediately taking Knox to the hospital, saving her life. The prosecutor said surgeons could not remove the bullet from her spine for 10 months. That also delayed permanent repairs to her jaw, which must now be rebroken and rewired.

Knox was not in court for the sentencing but Notaristefano read a letter in which she described how the shooting tore apart her life and ended her ability to care for children and other people.

Notaristefano said Harris' actions have caused a "ripple effect of devastation to numerous good, hardworking, caring, innocent people."

Contact Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985,, or @joeslobo on Twitter.

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