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Slain college hoopster was with alleged gunman’s ‘on-and-off-again’ girlfriend


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A teen accused of gunning down a Massachusetts basketball star days before his first game as a college freshman had been in a relationship with a woman who was riding in the car in which the student was shot.

Carl-Hens Beliard, 18, a member of Salem State University’s men’s basketball team, was shot in the back while driving in a car with the woman about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, WCVB reported.

Missael Pena Canela, also 18, pleaded not guilty Thursday in Salem District Court, where prosecutors revealed that he had been in an “on-and-off-again” relationship with the young woman.

Along with murder, Canela was charged with destruction of property for allegedly smashing the woman’s cellphone, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported.

During his arraignment, Pena ​Canela admitted to firing the shots that killed Beliard, according to WCVB, which cited prosecutors.

“At this point in time, my client is innocent. I think there’s a lot of information we need to know,” said his defense attorney, Debra Dewitt.

She questioned the prosecution’s claim that her client confessed to police.

“It’s news to me that he allegedly stated he committed the murder,” Dewitt said, CBS News reported.

Beliard, who graduated from North High School in Worcester, helped his varsity team win the Division 1 State championship. In May, the team was honored by Worcester Mayor Joseph Pettey for the victory.

He was just days away from taking part in his first game as a freshman at Salem State.

Assistant coach David Babb was in court Thursday, desperate to find out what sparked the shooting, which happened hours after thousands of people gathered in Salem to celebrate Halloween.“I’m really still kind of blank on the whole thing. We got a correspondence from one of our players that something had happened, and that’s how we found out,” Babb told WCVB. “I couldn’t believe it, actually. Still don’t believe it cause being with us now for five, six weeks — happy kid, loved by all of us, always smiling, you know? So it shocked us.”

He was just days away from taking part in his first game as a freshman at Salem State.

Team members gathered around a memorial set up in Beliard’s honor and held a moment of silence before leaving a signed basketball behind.

“He was the happiest kid. He had things going for him. He was doing basketball and all that. I don’t know why someone would wake up one morning and decide to take my boy’s life,” Jaidan Baptiste, one of Beliard’s friends, told the outlet.

Another friend, Justin Bell, called the slain teen a “great person.”

“He was, really, like always around smiling all the time — always smiling. I really don’t know who would have problems with him, really. It makes no sense,” he said.Salem State President John Keenan said in a statement that “this has been a tremendously difficult day for our entire campus community and for those that knew Carl best.

Beliard’s mother, Altagrace Beliard, last week said basketball had been his passion since he was just 2 years old and that he dreamed of becoming a star.

“He never gave up. No matter how hard it was, he kept pushing himself,” the grieving mom told WHDH. “He was such a good kid.”

After the high school championship, Beliard said at a rally that the it felt “like a dream come true.”

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