Victims' relatives upset with sentence for gang member who killed Durham man, boy
Posted April 13
Durham, N.C. — More than three years have passed since 9-year-old Jaeden Sharpe was shot and killed, but the passage of time didn't ease the pain for his family members when they heard his killer would serve no more than 20 years for Jaeden's death and the fatal shooting of a Durham man.
"Ever since it happened, I wanted closure. I wanted to be able to sleep easy at night. I don’t feel like the justice system is for us," Jaeden's mother, Lakeisha Holloway, said Wednesday after Everett Lamont Graves' sentencing.
Graves, 26, entered Alford pleas Thursday to two counts each of second-degree murder and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury, one count each of of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle causing serious injury and three counts of discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle.
Under an Alford plea, Graves can maintain his innocence while acknowledging prosecutors have enough evidence to convict him.
Jaeden and Holloway, 34, were shot in a car on Lucas Drive on Jan. 4, 2014. The boy, a third-grader at W.G. Pearson Magnet Elementary School in Durham, died six days later, while his mother still bears a scar on her nose from the shooting. Two 10-year-olds who also were in the car were unhurt.
Graves also shot 28-year-old Desmond Romario Williams four times in the back in a Dec. 17, 2013, drive-by shooting in the 2600 block of East Shoreham Street.
Prosecutors said Graves was a member of a Durham street gang, and all of the shootings, which they described as "execution-style killings," were gang-related.
"They’re trying to say it’s gang-related, regardless of the fact he was only 9 years old," Holloway said of her son. "I’m not a gang member. He wasn’t a gang member. It’s just not fair."
Authorities said they had little concrete evidence tying Graves to the murders. There were no witnesses to Williams' death, while Holloway was the only witness to the other shooting, and she gave inconsistent statements to police.
That meant what once was a death penalty case against Graves for Jaeden's murder faded to an Alford plea on a second-degree murder charge.
"We evaluate every case and try to make the best decision given the facts, including the relative strengths and weaknesses," Durham County District Attorney Roger Echols said, adding that "inconsistencies in the one eyewitness’ testimony is one of those (factors)."
Holloway disputed the notion that her testimony would have been suspect during a trial. "I remember everything that happened that day," she said.
When Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson sentenced Graves to 16 to 20 years in prison for the two murders, the families of both Jaeden and Williams were upset, saying the sentence isn't nearly long enough.
"I feel really disgusted, and I don’t feel like justice for my baby has been served," Holloway said. "When [Graves] gets out, he still has his whole life ahead of him. He can still have babies, get married and get established. It’s just not fair. It’s not fair."
Williams' mother, Deanna Williams, even exchanged words with Graves, who she said was blowing kisses at her in the courtroom.
"You sit over there with all this arrogance," she told Graves. "Do you see how many people's lives in here that you have changed? And we know that you don't give a care."
"I don't because I didn't do it," Graves replied.
"But guess what, vengeance is mine, says the Lord, and you going to feel the wrath," Deanna Williams said.