LUMBERTON — A St. Pauls man has been sentenced to almost 25 years in prison after he pled guilty to second-degree murder for shooting a man multiple times in the neck and head.
De’Ante Syvale Harris, 29, of East Worth Street, had at one time been scheduled to face the death penalty, but his lawyers successfully argued he was mentally retarded.
Harris was sentenced last week to a minimum of 19 years and nine months in prison, and a maximum of 24 years and six months for shooting and killing his aunt’s boyfriend, Dexter Conrad Stevenson, on Nov. 24, 2007.
The shooting resulted from an argument that took place on Keith Street, according to Robeson County District Attorney Johnson Britt.
Someone went to the home of Harris’ aunt, Brenda Harris, and told her that Stevenson was down the street “acting foolish,” Britt said.
“She looked out and Mr. Stevenson was down the street about a block, dancing with a stop sign,” Britt said.
Several men began making fun of Stevenson, Britt said. After an exchange of words, one of the men went to De’Ante Harris’ home and told him that Stevenson said “he was going to shut down the block. Mr. Harris came out, and he and Mr. Stevenson started exchanging words,” Britt said.
During a “heated exchange” between Stevenson and Harris, a neighbor called St. Pauls police, Britt said. Officer Brent Adkins, who was patrolling nearby, answered the call.
“He was acquainted with Harris. When he pulled up, he saw Harris in the street arguing with an individual he did not know, who was later identified as Mr. Stevenson,” Britt said.
After getting the two men separated, Adkins was escorting Stevenson to Brenda Harris’ home when he heard a gunshot at very close range, Britt said.
“Unbeknownst to him, Mr. Harris had followed them. He didn’t see a gun, so he did not check the defendant to see if he actually had a gun,” Britt said.
Harris shot Stevenson once in the neck, severing his spinal cord, Britt said.
After running for cover and drawing his gun, Adkins saw Harris shoot Stevenson four more times, Britt said.
When Harris didn’t comply with Adkins’ order to put down his gun, Adkins shot him once in the gut, which “disabled him,” Britt said.
Adkins was later cleared of any wrongdoing by the State Bureau of Investigation.
The case was set to go to trial as a capital case in July 2010 but the defense got it continued “because they wanted to pursue a claim of mental retardation,” Britt said.
Federal and state laws dictate that an individual who is found to be mentally retarded cannot face the death penalty.
A pre-trial hearing to determine whether or not Harris was mentally retarded began on Jan. 13. On Jan. 17, the judge declared that he was mentally retarded, “so the case would proceed non-capitally,” Britt said.
A psychologist testified that Harris functioned at the intellectual level of someone with a fifth- or sixth-grade education and an IQ of 65, Britt said.
“… A plea offer was made,” Britt said.
Scheduled for trial next week is Ronald Jiggetts Jr., of Maxton, who faces charges of first-degree murder as well as kidnapping, robbery and burglary charges for a December 2007 home invasion in Pembroke during which Andy Oxendine was shot and killed.
Also scheduled for trial next week is the case of Rodney Jones Jr., who is charged with first-degree murder in the January 2009 shooting death of Bobby Glenn Mitchell. Mitchell, who had been shot in the head, was found dead inside a shed that he lived in.