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Retired Teacher's Killer Sentenced to Life in Prison

Posted November 20, 2006

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— Jurors on Monday spared the life of a man convicted of slaying a retired Raleigh teacher last year, sentencing him to spend the rest of his life in prison.

The jury last week convicted Ezavia Allen, 20, of first-degree murder in the April 2005 death of Shirley Newkirk. The 63-year-old retired teacher was shot in the driveway of her southeast Raleigh home as she prepared to drive away for an early morning walk with a friend.

Prosecutors said the slaying was the culmination of a two-week crime spree by Allen and two other men.

Defense attorneys maintained Allen was aiming at Newkirk's rear-view mirror and not at her. They said he pulled the trigger because he was startled when she blew her car horn.

Jurors deliberated more than five hours before deciding to sentence Allen to life in prison without the possibility of parole instead of sending him to Death Row. Reflecting the difficulty of the decision, some jurors hesitated as Judge James C. Spencer Jr. polled them in the courtroom about their decision.

One of the original jurors in the case had been dismissed and replaced by an alternate on Friday. The juror said she wouldn't vote for the death penalty and that she had been pressured to convict Allen.

As he did throughout the trial, Allen showed no emotion as the sentence was announced. He also was sentenced to an additional 47 years in prison in connection with seven armed robbery convictions.

"I want to just say to the family that I am sorry. It was an accident. That's all I have to say," Allen said softly to the Newkirk family before he was led away.

Allen's family wept when they learned the sentence.

"I'm glad they spared my grandson's life," Jeanette Terrell said. "We are sorry for the (Newkirk) family. We have been through a lot ourselves. I hope they accept our apology and we all go on with our lives."

Newkirk's family had never said publicly whether they wanted Allen to be sentenced to death. In a prepared statement read by one of her daughters before the family left the courthouse, they continued to reflect on their own loss rather than on Allen.

"The defendant's actions have devastated the whole community, including his own family. Although this case is over, we continue to ask for your thoughts and prayers," Erica Newkirk Williams said.

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