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Wilson man sentenced to life in prison for shooting 5-year-old neighbor in head

A judge sentenced the Darius Sessoms to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The plea allows Sessoms to avoid the death penalty for the August 2020 shooting of 5-year-old Cannon Hinnant.

Posted Updated

Matt Talhelm
, WRAL reporter
WILSON, N.C. — Darius Sessoms agreed to an Alford plea on Thursday in the first-degree murder of 5-year-old Cannon Hinnant.

A judge sentenced the 28-year-old Sessoms to life in prison without the possibility of parole at the Wilson County Courthouse. The plea allows Sessoms to avoid the death penalty for the August 2020 shooting that devastated a family and shook the town of Wilson.

Darius Sessoms pleaded guilty to first-degree murder.

Under an Alford plea, a defendant can maintain his or her innocence while acknowledging prosecutors have enough evidence for a conviction.

Hinnant’s mother, Bonny Parker, wiped away tears as she read a victim impact statement to the court.

Parker called Cannon “my pride and joy” at the sentencing. She said Sessoms killing her son “made us suffer for the rest of our lives.”

Family members said Cannon Hinnant was riding his bike outside his father's house on Archers Road when he was shot in the head. The boy's two sisters, ages 8 and 7, saw their brother get shot, according to Cannon's mother.

Cannon was taken to Wilson Medical Center, where he died.

Court proceedings as Darius Sessoms pleads guilty to first-degree murder of Cannon Hinnant.

Aolani Pettit, Sessoms' girlfriend at the time of the murder, pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. She was sentenced to four to 14 months, all suspended, along with 18 months supervised probation.

Sessoms lived next to Cannon's father, Austin Hinnant.

"[It] brings us a little bit of peace," Parker told WRAL News. "Knowing that we are walking out of here today and we don't have to come back. We don't have to see him. My girls do not have to testify in court. That was the whole reason why he took this plea. It was best for him to take this plea so it would not have to get our girls up there."

Parker said Cannon had an infectious smile and personality, and loved go karts and riding his bicycle. She had previously urged the court to pursue the death penalty, saying that she does not feel as if justice will be done unless Sessoms was put to death by the state.
A GoFundMe launched for Hinnant in the days after the murder reached over $800,000 as news of his death reverberated throughout the region.
Sessoms made his first court appearance in May. He was indicted by a grand jury for charges of first-degree murder and possession of a firearm by felon in December 2021.

Doris Lybrand, who witnessed the shooting, said she saw Sessoms run up to Cannon and put the gun near his head before running back to his own house.

"My first reaction was he's playing with the kids," Lybrand said. "For a second, I thought, 'That couldn't happen.' People don't run across the street and kill kids."


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