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Lodi teens plead guilty to drive-by shooting

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Posted: Friday, October 31, 2003 10:00 pm

In an emotion-filled courtroom, two Lodi teens pleaded guilty Friday to participating in a drive-by shooting that left an 18-year-old woman with a bullet in her brain forever.

Through the plea deal, Brandon Packer will face a prison sentence of 28 years to life, while Wesley Merle Woodworth II, 19, will spend seven years in prison.

Packer, who turned 18 two months after he was arrested, will not be eligible for parole until he is at least 45, though he could spend his life in prison, a judge told him Friday.

Packer's mother sobbed quietly throughout the proceedings, and other family members, including two grandmothers, continuously wiped their eyes.

Woodworth's parents comforted his younger siblings as they cried quietly, and sobbing was later heard in a court hallway as both mothers hugged one another.

On the night of June 7, Corina Nichole Canepa, 18, of Acampo, was attending a Harney Lane party in the 1000 block of Harney Lane when Packer got into an altercation with two people.

Packer then left the party, and two of his friends testified that he retrieved a gun he had loaned them and went back to Harney Lane. With Woodworth driving, Packer fired out the passenger window.

Brandon Packer

Canepa never heard the shot that shattered her cheek bone and permanently left a bullet in her head.

She is still facing medical problems and her physical activities are now limited because the bullet, resting against her carotid artery, could cause a fatal brain aneurysm.

Though Packer will spend a minimum of 28 years in prison for the shooting, Canepa's family did not view it as a time for celebration.

"I don't think there were any winners here today," her step-father said after court.

Wesley Woodworth

He also felt there would be fewer shootings if people knew the penalties of using a gun in California.

Because Packer used a gun while committing a felony, he was charged with an additional enhancement that carries 25 years to life - the same penalty for a first-degree murder conviction.

Sometimes referred to by attorneys as the "10-20-life" rule, using a gun can drastically lengthen a sentence under California law. If a gun is used but not fired during certain felony crimes, 10 years can be added to the sentence.

"If the gun goes off, you get 20 years. And, if it strikes someone other than an accomplice of yours, causing great bodily injury, it's life," Deputy District Attorney Tom Ziegler said after court.

Packer pleaded guilty to shooting at an inhabited dwelling and will receive three years for the crime, while Woodworth pleaded guilty to the same offense and will get seven years in state prison.

But Packer also admitted the "10-20-life" enhancement, which added 25 years to life.

His attorney, Kevin Hyatt, had tried to work out a deal without a life sentence.

"He's remorseful and he's been willing to accept responsibility all along," Hyatt said. "Obviously his conduct caused great bodily injury to someone who was just out having a good time. But the whole event that led up to this was his getting beat up at that party, and (those people) were not charged.

"I'm a former police officer and I find that somewhat egregious," Hyatt said, adding that it did not excuse Packer's actions.

If the case had gone to trial, Packer could have faced a maximum sentence of 70 years to life in prison if convicted of all charges, Ziegler said.

Both Woodworth and Packer will receive their first strike under California's Three-Strikes Law, but Packer will also get a second strike because he pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon.

They are scheduled to return to court Dec. 12 for sentencing and will be jailed without bail until then.

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