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Woman pleads guilty to misleading police in Gingerella homicide investigation

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Latoya S. Knight, who was scheduled to go on trial this week for misleading police after her longtime companion shot and killed Joey Gingerella on Dec. 11, 2016, pleaded guilty Tuesday in New London Superior Court.

Knight, 34, of 4 Waco Court, Groton, will be sentenced Sept. 23 to 30 days in prison for second-degree hindering prosecution, a felony offense.

Gingerella's family members were in court to hear Knight admit she is guilty.

His mother, Tammy de la Cruz, addressed the court briefly, saying she hopes Knight has time to reflect during her brief prison stint.

"Just know that Joey gave his life for you," de la Cruz said. "I really don't want to hear he should have minded his own business. Joey did the right thing."

Gingerella, 24, known by many as "Jo Jo Nice," was shot by Dante Hughes while attempting to stop him from beating Knight in the parking lot of Ryan's Pub on Dec. 11, 2016, according to court testimony and documents.

Police stopped Knight, a mother of six who also is known as "Tootie," as she tried to leave the scene of the 1:30 a.m. shooting. When they questioned her in her SUV at the scene, they said, she lied and told them a picture of Hughes from her phone was Justin Davenport of Norwich, who is Hughes' brother. They took her to police headquarters and questioned her during a recorded interview.

Hughes fled and was captured two days later as he attempted to walk across the Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls, N.Y., into Canada.

Called to the witness stand at Hughes' trial in the summer of 2018, Knight insisted she was drunk that night and didn't remember the details of the crime.

Hughes was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 45 years in prison.

Knight had turned down earlier plea offers and was scheduled to go on trial Wednesday before a jury of six.

Prosecutor Paul J. Narducci and Knight's attorneys, Victoria A. Pells and Bruce Lorenzen, continued plea negotiations as the trial drew near. Knight, who faced a maximum of 21 years in prison if convicted, on Tuesday accepted the state's offer to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of five years in prison, suspended after 30 days served, followed by three years' conditional discharge. Knight will not be on probation but will be subject to any conditions set by the court.

Judge Hillary B. Strackbein, who will be imposing the sentence later this month, questioned Knight to ensure she understands the plea deal. The judge continued the case for three weeks so that Knight can get her affairs in order and told Gingerella's family that the court system understands the sacrifice that was made.

"I understand your position that Ms. Knight needs to be grateful," Strackbein said.

Knight will have the option of addressing the court at her sentencing.

k.florin@theday.com

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