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Rock Hill man who survived murder attempt sent to prison on drug charges

The one guy who got a second chance at life after the January robbery of a drug dealer in Rock Hill led to murder was the drug dealer himself.

But Rafael Renta, 20, now is headed to prison for up to six years after pleading guilty to eight drug charges, said Matt Shelton, York County assistant solicitor.

Renta had a chance at a new life after a brush with death in the dope business. But prosecutors say he went right back to selling.

Back on Jan. 10, three teens from one of Rock Hill’s gangs, the 715 Fam, burst through the door of a house Renta and others lived in on Cedar Grove Lane in Rock Hill. Renta’s friend, Michael Giddens, 25, was sitting in the easy chair but found out that holding a shotgun in his lap during a drug deal is anything but easy. The shortest guy through the door, a career criminal who had been shooting and robbing since elementary school, Abbdul Emmanuel, shot Giddens right through the chest in an attempt to steal Renta’s money and drugs.

Giddens died, and Renta ran out of the house. Emmanuel, 19 years old and already accused of at least a half-dozen shootings, gave chase and fired repeatedly at Renta. But Renta could not be caught.

A few days later, police locked up Emmanuel, Dontavion White and Maurice Burris, the trio involved in the drug robbery-turned-killing. Giddens was buried by a tearful family.

Renta was not arrested in January. He was the only one involved to skate.

Then the ice broke.

Renta apparently decided he was Superman, avoiding both death and arrest, because he started selling drugs again. In August, a York County narcotics agent, undercover, walked into the same house from the January shooting and bought drugs from Renta. Then the agents caught Renta with two pounds of marijuana after he picked the pot up in the mail. Renta gave police consent to search the house, and they found hash, a derivative of marijuana with the potency to knock a rhino on its side for a week.

Renta was even making the hash in the house. He used butane to distill the pot into hash oil. The dope lab was just 10 feet from where his friend bled to death. People would go into the house and buy drugs, get high, giggle and laugh.

Renta apparently was not a good saver, either. He went to the same jail in York where the guys who tried to kill him were housed. Without money from selling drugs to make a $42,000 bond, Renta has been in jail ever since.

Almost all criminals rat each other out to prosecutors before the ink is dry on the indictments in an attempt to get the best deal. By early October, Emmanuel the shooter had been sentenced to 40 years in prison for the killing and many other crimes. White, just 18 years old, got 10 years for being there after he snitched on Emmanuel. Burris, even younger at age 16, got prison until at least age 21 after admitting that Emmanuel was the killer.

That left Rafael Renta alone in the York County jail. Friday, Renta had his turn in court. He pleaded guilty to distribution of marijuana, second offense. He pleaded guilty to two counts of distributing marijuana. And he pleaded guilty to making and selling the hash.

Judge Keith Kelly agreed to a youthful offender sentence. Renta, who turned 20 three weeks ago, has to serve at least one year but may have to serve for up to 6, depending on whether he stays on the straight and narrow, said Shelton, the prosecutor.

“He gets a chance to have a life if he will change,” Shelton said.