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Woman sent to prison for lying to investigators in search for man suspected of killing New Kensington cop

November 5, 2018 GMT

A New Kensington woman will serve up to seven years in prison for lying to investigators as they searched for the man suspected of fatally shooting police officer Brian Shaw last year.

Lakita Caine, 40, pleaded guilty in May to one count of hindering the apprehension of Rahmael Sol Holt, who prosecutors contend shot and killed Shaw after fleeing from a vehicle following a traffic stop Nov. 17, 2017, in New Kensington.

Caine, according to police, initially lied when investigators questioned her and her daughter about Holt’s whereabouts following the shooting. She said she had not seen Holt and didn’t know where he was located. Holt was arrested four days later in Pittsburgh following a massive regional manhunt.

Witnesses eventually came forward to tell police Holt visited Caine’s home shortly after the shooting, went into the basement and left behind an unidentified object.

Investigators said that object is believed to be the suspected murder weapon, which was possibly removed inside a brown bag by a third woman, according to Westmoreland County Det. Ray Dupilka.

Holt, 30, is scheduled to be tried for first-degree murder in April. Prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty if he is convicted.

In court on Friday, prosecutors argued that because Caine’s actions led to an extended search for Holt and thwarted efforts to recover the gun used in the shooting she should spend time behind bars.

Standard sentencing guidelines from the crime Caine pleaded guilty to call for a few months in jail -- a shorter penalty than for crimes such as poisoning a zoo animal and an equal term for illegally recording a movie in a theater, according to Assistant District Attorney James Lazar.

Letters exchanged between Holt and Caine at the jail indicated she was still upset with witnesses who reported her to the police, Lazar said.

“Because of her conduct, she deserves to go to state prison,” Lazar said.

Defense attorney Valerie Veltri said Caine’s actions constituted no more than lying and that she should be immediately paroled from jail after serving 11 months in jail.

Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court Judge Rita Hathaway said Caine should have known better because she holds an associates degree in criminal justice.

“She knew Rahmael Holt was in her home and a police officer was killed. If she had not lied, they’d have that gun,” Hathaway said before sentencing Caine to serve three-to-seven years in prison.

Caine’s daughter, Taylor Mitchell, 19, pleaded guilty this year to the same offense -- hindering the apprehensive of a fugitive -- and was sentenced by Hathaway to serve 11-1/2 to 23 months in jail and an additional two years on probation. A state appeals court last summer upheld that sentence.

Lisa Harrington, 32, of New Kensington, the woman police said may have removed the gun from Caine’s home, was charged with three counts of hindering the apprehension of Holt. Her case is scheduled for trial in December.