A tale of two cases

Mia Sardella is 19.
Jahmir Ricks is 14.

That’s about where the similarities end.

Oh, except this one other thing. Both at one time were charged with first-degree murder.

Sardella is the Drexel Hill teen mom who was charged after a baby was discovered in the trunk of her mother’s car. Police believe she gave birth in a bathroom in the basement of her mother’s home.

Several days later, her mother discovered the baby’s remains stuffed in a duffel bag in her VW Beetle. She called her father. He in turn called a lawyer. Weeks went by without any charges being filed in the case.

Sardella was free the entire time.

Sardella is believed to have given birth on New Year’s Day. Days went by before the baby was discovered. Almost five months later, the district attorney weighed in, filing first-degree murder charges against the young woman.

Sardella spent a night in jail, before being released on home monitoring. She is living in her grandfather’s house.

Tensions ran high in the interim. There was no shortage of those wondering what was taking so long and if Sardella’s status, and her wealthy grandfather, a high-profile Philadelphia investment banker, had something to do with the delay in her case.

Among those wondering just that was Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood, who made it clear he believed that there were two systems of justice at play, one for those who can afford a certain brand of justice, another for those who can’t.

Eventually, Delco Judge Patricia Jenkins issued a gag order in the case to halt the heated rhetoric surrounding the incident.

Meanwhile, a few miles away in Lansdowne, in mid-July Ricks was charged with first-degree murder after allegedly fatally plunging a steak knife into his older brother’s chest. Police believe the two argued when the older brother refused to turn over a video game controller after losing a game to his younger brother. An argument ensued, with deadly results.

Ricks was arrested the same day. He was charged as an adult with first-degree murder. He has been in Delaware County Prison ever since, despite the efforts of his attorney, who has been trying to get the case sent to the juvenile justice system, as well as getting bail set for his young client. Jahmir Ricks spent his 14th birthday in jail.

Last week the D.A.’s office withdrew the most serious charges against Sardella. She will no longer face the death penalty. In fact she no longer faces first-degree murder charges or voluntary manslaughter. Instead she likely will face lesser third-degree murder charges.

On Monday Jahmir Ricks was held for trial on first-degree murder charges. He remains in jail. His attorney will continue to seek bail and to have the cased remanded to the juvenile justice system.

I am not about to say these two cases are evidence of two different systems of justice in this county. It is much more complicated than that.

But I do know that Jahmir Ricks, just 13, has spent every minute since that deadly argument with his brother as a ward of the Delaware County Prison.

Sardella spent a day in jail, although the D.A.’s office did say at one point they would seek to have her bail revoked. That likely now also will be withdrawn.

I am sure something is being gained by keeping a 13-year-old kid locked up. I’m just not sure what it is.


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