The man who was accused of firing the shot that killed 15-year-old Jane Creba in a Boxing Day shooting spree in 2005 has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

Jeremiah Valentine, 27, faces an automatic sentence of life imprisonment. A judge ruled Tuesday afternoon that Valentine will not be eligible for parole for 12 years but noted that he would have faced a much stiffer ruling if the case had gone to trial and Valentine been convicted.

Justice John McMahon said he accepted Valentine's expression of remorse, saying he seemed genuine.

"Mr. Valentine sincerely expressed his remorse, and he's given to the Creba family and the people of Toronto the only thing he has left to give, and that's a guilty plea with a life sentence," defence lawyer Edward Sapiano told reporters outside court.

"We are pleased with the turn of events," said Det. Sgt. Savas Kyriacou.

The Creba family did not appear in court and did not file a victim impact statement.

According to an agreed statement of facts that was read out in court, Valentine was at the Foot Locker store on Yonge Street, just north of the Eaton Centre, looking to buy shoes for his young son when he was approached by a group of young men.

Valentine said at one point the men showed him they were carrying weapons and began intimidating him and trying to rob him of a gold chain he was wearing.

The group left the store and carried on their argument outside.

At some point, Valentine pulled out a .357 Magnum handgun he was carrying and fired a shot. The group of men fired back sparking a gun battle on the street crowded with Boxing Day bargain-hunters.

Creba, who had been at Sam the Record Man across the street, walked right into the path of the crossfire as she made her way to an adjacent pizza shop to use the washroom.

The court heard Tuesday that while forensics could not determine with certainty that the bullet from Valentine's gun was the one that killed Creba, the Crown believed it was most likely the murder weapon.

In August 2006 videotaped interview with Toronto Police homicide investigators, Valentine told them: "Confident. Because when you know you weren't involved, then what more do you want to know?"

Several months later, police charged him with murder in the shooting.

CTV Toronto's Chris Eby said Valentine has a lengthy criminal record and has been involved in drug dealing. He had been arrested four months before on a drug charge but police released him on a promise to appear because he had given useful information that led to arrests of members of the Driftwood Crips street gang.

More suspects await trial

The guilty plea is the latest development in a murder case that at one point saw nine people charged in connection to the crime.

In November, the Crown prosecutor dropped charges against four suspects, saying there was a slim chance of conviction.

One suspect, Jorrell Simpson-Rowe was convicted of second-degree murder during a high-profile trial in December 2008. Simpson-Rowe was a minor when the shooting occurred but he was given an adult sentence with no possibility of parole for 10 years.

Three adults are still awaiting trial.

Jane Creba was one of seven innocent bystanders injured in the gunfight on Dec. 26, 2005.

Dec. 26, also known as Boxing Day, is one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Creba, who was shopping with her mother and sister just north of the Eaton Centre, was the only one who was fatally struck.

With a report from CTV Toronto's Chris Eby