At an emotional sentencing, family members of both the victim and his former girlfriend, convicted of stabbing him to death, shed tears as a sentence was handed down of 12 to 25 years for the December 2011 murder in Frankford.
Voice barely audible and rocked with sobs, Marchelle Pickney, a.k.a Marchelle Pinckney, 29, apologized for killing her boyfriend Brandt Lollie before being sentenced on third-degree murder charges.
"He was a good person. A likable person. He wasn't a violent person," Pickney said. "I knew I didn't have no right taking that life away from him. My intentions were never to do that. ... None of this was ever meant to happen."
Pickney was found guilty after trial of shoving a brand-new dollar-store kitchen knife, still sheathed in plastic, four inches into Lollie's throat, apparently during an argument in the kitchen.
Pickney's one-year-old niece, staying with the couple at the time of the murder, had to have blood on its foot wiped off by a police officer because it had walked into a pool of its father's blood.
Three of Lollie's family members gave victim impact statements before the sentencing, one of them reading a heartbroken letter from Lollie's bereaved mother.
"We're left picking up the pieces," said Lollie's cousin, Branden Barnette, in the statement he read to the court. "Brandt was a vibrant, charismatic, life-loving man. He had an impact on everyone he knew, and if you knew him, you couldn't help but love him."
One family member said that they knew Pickney was verbally and physically abusive to Lollie, but when they asked Lollie why he was with Pickney even though "she acts as if she hates you," he said, "Well you know we're going through some stuff, but I love her."
The family said that Lollie stayed away from Pickney for a week before his death because the violence and abuse by Pickney had escalated, and he had just returned to their home on the 5200 block of Cottage Street when she killed him.
"She wasn't thinking about anyone else when she picked up that knife and stabbed him in the neck," said prosecutor Andrew Notaristefano before the sentencing. "Their son will grow up with a deceased father and a mother that killed him."
Pickney argued at trial that the slaying was in self-defense, claiming on the witness stand Lollie had hit her multiple times, which Notaristefano called "slander". Prosecution witnesses who knew Lollie testified that those claims were untrue and that Pickney was the abusive partner in the relationship.
"She had a right to a trial, but she had no right to lie," Notaristefano said.
In a statement that Pickney made to detectives after calling 911 to report that she had killed Lollie, she said they had got into an argument, where Lollie finally stood up for himself.
After Pickney struck him, Lollie reportedly said, "You can't just keep slapping me like this," and slapped her back, to which in response she picked up the knife and drove it into his throat.
Pickney told detectives in her statement at the time, "Brandt wasn't a woman beater, we just had our disputes."
Notaristefano cited in his statement before sentencing that Pickney has a history of violence dating back to 2002, when she brought scissors into a school and then attacked a school police officer after the metal detector went off. She pled guilty to aggravated assault in that case.
Other past charges against Pickney include for retail theft in 1998, for stealing almost $1,000 of merchandise from Strawbridge's department store in 2001, and for stealing from Saks Fifth Avenue while working there as a cashier in 2003. In a 2005 incident, Pickney reportedly was arrested after she tried to return stolen goods to an unnamed department store at a mall, and when the clerk refused to accept the return, knocked several items off another rack, took several items of clothing without paying and fled. In 2007, she was charged with theft for taking her then-boyfriend's car for several months.
"I was a rebellious child. I didn't respect nobody. I did a lot of things. I accept responsibility for it all and apologize for it all," Pickney said tearfully before the sentence was handed down, also admitting that she had lied in her testimony about Brandt striking her.
While in prison awaiting trial over the past two years, Pickney said that she has sought "help."
"I've reached out for help. I never wanted people to see any flaws in me. But I know I'm not perfect."
"I'm so sorry," she said as her voice broke and she began sobbing, "that this had to happen for me to realize that."