College Basketball Player Fatally Shot While Driving, Suspect Was Looking for Woman in Car with Victim

Carl-Hens Beliard was "a happy kid," his mother said

<p>Rick Cinclair/Telegram & Gazette / USA TODAY NETWORK</p> Carl-Hens Beliard

Rick Cinclair/Telegram & Gazette / USA TODAY NETWORK

Carl-Hens Beliard

A Massachusetts man is facing a murder charge in connection with the death of a college basketball player who was shot while driving.

Pena Canela, 18, pleaded not guilty Thursday in connection with the fatal Wednesday night shooting of Carl-Hens Beliard, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported.

Prosecutors said Beliard was in the car with a woman who was allegedly in an on-and-off-again relationship with Canela, CBS News reported.

At his arraignment Thursday, prosecutors alleged he admitted to looking for the woman and firing the shots, according to CBS News.

Beliard was shot in the back, according to prosecutors, per WCVB.

<p>Allan Jung / USA TODAY NETWORK</p> Pena Canela


Pena Canela

"It's news to me that he allegedly stated he committed the murder," Canela's defense attorney Debra Dewitt said at Thursday’s arraignment, CBS reported. "I'm saying at this point in time, my client is innocent. I think there's a lot of information that we need to know."

Dewitt could not be reached by PEOPLE for comment.

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Beliard's shocking death has devastated his family, friends and the Worcester community where the North High School graduate was a freshman on Salem State’s basketball team.

"He loved basketball so much,” his mother Altagrace Beliard told WBZ-TV. “He loved his brother. He was a happy kid. He was really happy. He was really happy with the school. He was doing well."

Beliard’s friend Jaidan Baptiste described Beliard as "the happiest kid."

"He had things going for him,” he told WCVB. “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."

"I really don't know who would have problems with him, really,” said Justin Bell’s friend, per WCVB. “It makes no sense."

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