CLEVELAND, Ohio — A jury convicted a Cleveland man for fatally shooting a transgender woman during a February 2018 argument in the city’s Edgewater neighborhood.
Gary Sanders, 37, faces up to 17 years in prison after jurors found him guilty late Monday of involuntary manslaughter and other charges in the killing of 45-year-old Phylicia Mitchell.
Jurors acquitted Sanders of murder charges that would have carried a mandatory sentence of life in prison with a chance at parole after 15 years.
The shooting was not motivated by Mitchell’s gender identity, prosecutors said.
Sanders and Mitchell were longtime friends who lived in a house on West 112th Street near Detroit Avenue with several other people, including Mitchell’s longtime partner, Shane Mitchell, prosecutors said.
Sanders supplied crack cocaine for several members of the house, prosecutors said.
He and Phylicia Mitchell got into an argument Feb. 24, 2018 that escalated when Sanders pulled out a pistol. He fired a shot into Phylicia Mitchell’s chest and killed her, prosecutors said.
Sanders denied taking part in the shooting. He told police during his initial interrogation that he was in East Cleveland at the time of the crime, prosecutors said.
Surveillance video presented at trial showed Sanders walking in the area less than a minute after the shooting. Data culled from his cellphone records also put him in the area of the house around the time of the shooting, prosecutors said.
Others in the house also testified that Sanders was in the house at the time of the shooting, prosecutors said.
Shane Mitchell told cleveland.com in the days after the shooting that he and Phylicia Mitchell had been together for years and considered themselves husband and wife.
“She was a good person, even though she had a drug problem, she’s a good person,” he said. “She got mixed up with the wrong people.”