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West Philly gardener Winnie Harris killed over mistaken identity, cops say

Police charged Nelson Giddings in the February murder of West Philly community activist Winnie Harris.
Winnie Harris (Provided)

Police say they have arrested one of the gunmen responsible for the murder of a beloved West Philly community activist and gardener, Winnie Harris, whose slaying shocked the neighborhood.

Harris, 65, was shot to death around 8:20 p.m. on Feb. 3 inside her home on North Holly Street, the block where she was a well-known fixture.

It was a death that long went unsolved and was all the more jarring because no robbery had occurred and neighbors couldn't imagine what circumstances possibly could put Harris in front of a gun.

Now, police say Nelson Giddings, 39, of the 2000 block of Stella Street, and another man did not intend to kill Harris but "broke into the wrong house" and took her life in a case of mistaken identity, the Inquirer reported.

A flyer created by friends said Harris "was looking forward to retirement" at the time of her death.

She was known to have planted hundreds of trees in West Philly as a volunteer at UC Garden. She also found the Holly Street Neighbors Community Garden, which since her death describes itself as a "living memorial" to Harris.

"We commemorate her dedication to grow food organically," the garden states on its site. "Always remember Ms. Winnie."

Giddings is currently in custody in Delaware County, where he was arrested in April on assault charges, and was charged on Monday with Harris' murder.

It remains unclear who he and his accomplice were actually targeting when they killed Harris, or how police tied Giddings to Harris' murder.

Giddings' record in Philly includes a 2013 arrest for burglary followed by prison time, four previous arrests for drug possession and a 1997 arrest for assault.

The second suspect seen on surveillance camera footage leaving the scene near Harris' house is still being sought by authorities.