Man Pleads Guilty in Retired Teacher's Death
Posted June 12, 2007 6:51 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — The final suspect in the April 2005 murder of a retired Wake County teacher pleaded guilty Tuesday to his role in the crime and asked for forgiveness from the woman's family.
Marvin Johnson, 20, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in shooting death of Shirley Newkirk outside her southeast Raleigh home on April 24, 2005.
Newkirk was getting ready for an early morning walk with a friend when she was shot in her driveway in an apparent robbery attempt, authorities said. She managed to get back inside her home, where her husband found her.
Johnson's cousin, Ezavia Allen, and a friend, Cameron Morris, were previously convicted of first-degree murder in the case and are serving life terms in prison.
Police said the trio committed a string of armed robberies and attempted robberies in the days leading up to Newkirk's death, and investigators believe she was another target in their spree.
Allen, the triggerman, said he accidentally shot Newkirk when she blew the car horn and startled him.
Johnson testified against both Allen and Morris and was allowed to plead to second-degree murder. Defense attorney Joe Zeszotarski also said Johnson was the follower in the group.
"He is the least culpable of the three men involved in this case.," Zeszotarski said.
He told Superior Court Judge Ron Stephens that Johnson was led astray after his mother became chronically ill.
"Everyone I talked to, your honor, said Marvin went into a downward spiral when that occurred," he said.
Stephens sentenced Johnson to a minimum of 21 years and a maximum of 26 years in prison.
Johnson apologized in court to Newkirk's family, saying he prayed for them, had asked God for forgiveness and hoped that they might eventually forgive him.
His father, also named Marvin Johnson, said his son was sincere in the apology.
"He's very sorry for what happened. He's very remorseful for what happened. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time," the elder Johnson said.
Meanwhile, Anita Pearson, the attorney for the Newkirks, said the family just wants to move forward.
"The family is now just relieved that the process is over, and they're ready to get on with their lives," Pearson said.