GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Five teens will remain behind bars for Grand Rapids’ first murder of 2019.
The emotions in a downtown Grand Rapids courtroom Wednesday were overwhelming for those who knew and loved James King, 17, a kid who was described as happy and friendly. He was shot Jan. 13 while being robbed in a parking lot.
The five teens who had various levels of involvement in the crime stood together as King’s family addressed them.
“I feel they all should get life. They did the crime together so they should do the time together,” Michaela Lauderdale, one of King’s cousins, said.
“My nephew was shot in the face and thrown out of the car like he was a piece of trash where he was left to die without his mother to hold his hand,” said Gina Williams, an aunt of King.
King’s mother Tasha Williams addressed each defendant in turn.
“I have so much anger built up because of what you all did to my son. No, I don’t forgive you. The time you get, you deserve that time. You should’ve gotten longer than what you got,” she said.
She says she can’t help but think of how some of the teens knew her son and used that trust to lure him to the parking lot near Kalamazoo Avenue and 44th Street under the guise of buying some marijuana.
“You had a choice to walk away from it. You choose to do what you do and that’s the time you chose to did what you did. And no, I don’t forgive you for that,” the mom said.
Judge Joseph Rossi started his sentencing with the Old Testament story of fratricide between Cain and Abel.
“And the Lord said, ‘What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the soil.’ You all played a part in the taking of the life of James King,” Rossi said. “All of you have pled for mercy, but the time of mercy was when you were out sitting in that car in the parking lot on Jan. 13. Today’s not about mercy, it’s about James King and it’s about justice.”
All of the defendants, who are between the ages of 17 and 18, worked out plea deals in the case, saving some of them from life in prison.
Gunman Israel Valdez received a sentence of 25 to 50 years in prison for second-degree murder. Sebastian Quinones received 15 to 40 years for armed robbery. He supplied the gun.
Alanah Claflin received 10 to 40 years for armed robbery.
Ahmed Adel Hasan and Kayleb Douglas Sims both were sentenced to one year in jail for their lesser roles, pleading to attempted armed robbery.
They each had a chance to address King’s grieving mother.
“Today is the day I take full responsibility and punishment for the death of James King, your son,” said Valdez, who confessed that he shot King in the face when he pleaded guilty. “I want you to know that I am sincerely sorry and I pray for you as a family.”
Claflin went to East Kentwood High School with King. She was the one who lured King to the parking lot knowing an armed robbery was going to happen.
“I truly am very deeply sorry that this had to be this way. I’m very sorry about that,” Claflin said. “There was no pint in taking his life. James was such a small but loving person, always smiling, he had a great heart. He was a very good kid. He always brought good vibes to everyone around him.”