Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS -- In just a few weeks, the 13-year-old shooter who killed a Mid-City man during an armed robbery is expected to enter a guilty plea.

The Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office confirms that his accomplice, a 15-year-old, has already pleaded guilty. However, the teens are expected to be released as young adults in less than a decade.

Last spring in broad daylight, police say Rafael Quintanilla was robbed at gunpoint by two teens. Police say a 13-year-old shooter shot the 58-year-old in his stomach before he could hand anything over. The Mid-City man wouldn't survive.

Eight months later, the Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office says the 15-year-old accomplice is cooperating with prosecutors in exchange for not being tried as an adult.

'We allowed the 15-year-old to stay in the juvenile court. He pled guilty to a conspiracy to commit armed robbery and was also sentenced to juvenile life, which means he won't be released until his 21st birthday,' said District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro.

The Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office confirms that the 13-year-old shooter -- who was wearing an ankle monitoring device during the crime --- is also expected to enter a guilty plea next month.

Cannizzaro said the teen will also be handed a juvenile life sentence, meaning release on his 21st birthday, which is mandated by state law. The office says the 13-year-old is expected to enter his official guilty plea on March 13.

'The 13-year-old, in this case, it was not possible legally for us to transfer him to the adult system,' Cannizzaro said.

Now that the two teens in this Mid-City murder case are expected to spend the next six to nine years behind bars, juvenile justice experts say it's critical they are properly rehabilitated.

'Research has demonstrated that when they have access to job training, rehabilitation-like counseling, when they have a significant support from staff and getting educated, they're less likely to re-offend,' said Dana Kaplan, the executive director of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana.

Kaplan said state cuts to such programs doesn't help deter future crime.

'That is why it is so critically important that we invest our taxpayers dollars into ensuring that our juvenile justice system is working. It is a smart investment long-term for public safety,' added Kaplan.

This story was developed with WWLTV's partners at the Mid-City Messenger.

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