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Teen sentenced to nearly 18 years for killing Durham taxi driver

Zyon McNeil, 18,  on left, and his attorney Daniel Meier, in Durham County Superior Court on July 11, 2018.  McNeil pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and robbery in the August 2016 killing of Ameer Suliman.
Zyon McNeil, 18, on left, and his attorney Daniel Meier, in Durham County Superior Court on July 11, 2018. McNeil pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and robbery in the August 2016 killing of Ameer Suliman. vbridges@heraldsun.com

A Durham teenager pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and robbery Wednesday in connection with an August 2016 crime spree in which a taxi driver was fatally shot in the chest.

Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson sentenced Zyon McNeil, 18, to spend from nearly 14 years to up to 17 years and six months in prison. If McNeil serves the maximum sentence, the last 12 months would likely be on supervised released, according to his attorney.

On Aug. 11, 2016, McNeil and Jaewon Curtis were on a crime spree that included stealing from McNeil's mother, borrowing a phone at a swimming pool, using it to call a taxi and then robbing the person who had provided the phone. The pair then robbed the taxi driver, Ameer Suliman, 46, a father of three.

Curtis shot Suliman when he moved his hand toward a pocket, where he had a large amount of cash, prosecutors said.

Suliman collapsed in the lobby of a La Quinta motel at 1910 Westpark Drive, off N.C. 55, west of Research Triangle Park. He died at a hospital, police said at the time.

Curtis, who was 15 at the time and is now 17, pleaded guilty June 29 to second-degree murder and robbery charges. He was sentenced to serve from 12 to up to 15 years in prison.

A third person, Trayvion Lyons, 23, was charged in the case. Lyons pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact to robbery with a dangerous weapon and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He received a sentence of up to three years and 4 months in state prison.

On Aug. 11, 2016, McNeil’s mother called police and reported a larceny. The mother said she let her son in her home at 9 a.m. and when she returned home at 11 a.m. found that money and .32 caliber pistol were missing.

About 12:30 p.m. police got a call that two people had robbed a 17-year-old at a subdivision’s swimming pool on Whispering Oak Lane, about 13 miles from the La Quinta.

The teen told officers that two people had asked to borrow his telephone and called a taxi, then they showed him a gun and took the phone, his cash and a pair of headphones. Suliman drove the cab that picked up the teens, and was shot by about 1 p.m. police said.

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