Durham County

Graves gets 16 to 20 years for pair of shooting deaths, including boy, 9

The thinning light of the setting sun reflects off the Durham County Courthouse on a springtime evening.
The thinning light of the setting sun reflects off the Durham County Courthouse on a springtime evening. The Herald Sun

Everett Lamont Graves, 26, was sentenced in Durham Superior Court Thursday to 16 to 20 years imprisonment for his connection to the shooting deaths of 9-year-old Jaeden Sharpe and 28-year-old Desmond Romario Williams.

Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson allowed victims’ family members to address the court after sentencing Graves.

Desmond Romario Williams’s mother, Deanna Williams, took the oppurtunity to speak.

“You sit over there with all this arrogance. Do you see how many people’s lives in here that you have changed?” Deanna Williams. “And we know that you don’t give a care.”

Graves told the grief-stricken mother, “I don’t, because I didn’t do it.”

Deanna Williams said, “But guess what, vengeance is mine, says the Lord, and you going to feel the wrath.”

Graves had entered Alford pleas to the charges alleged against him.

An Alford plea is a way for a defendant to admit that there is enough evidence collected — that has or could be leveled against themselves — to garner a ruling of guilty from the court, but bypass a straight-out plea of guilty. Put simply, an Alford plea allows for a slight saving of face.

Durham District Attorney Roger Echols said defendants who enter Alford pleas are treated the same as if they had simply plead guilty.

An Alford plea technically does not reduce the severity of a defendant’s sentencing.

Graves was found guilty of two counts of second-degree murder, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle causing serious injury and three counts of discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle in motion.

His 9-year-old victim, Jaeden Sharpe, was riding in a gold SUV with his mother, Lakeisha Holloway, 34, on Lucas Drive at around 6 p.m. on Jan. 4, 2014 when shots were fired into the SUV. Both Holloway and Jaeden were shot, Jaeden in the head.

Holloway managed to drive a few blocks to get help and was found with her son in the SUV on Halyard Court shortly after having been hit. Jaeden, who was in the third grade, died of his wounds five days later when he was taken off life support.

Jaeden’s father, Justin Brooks Sharpe, 32 at the time, was shot on Enterprise Street on Jan. 10, 2015 — just over a year after his son was shot — while also driving. After he was shot, he crashed his car into a retaining wall. He survived the shooting.

Prosecutors believed that Graves had ties to gang-related activity.

In court, the state argued, on factual basis, that a possible reason for 9-year-old Jaeden’s death was that he had been caught in the crossfire between Graves’ and Jaeden’s father’s illicit activities and gangsterism. Prosecutors believe that Graves might have been targeting Jaeden’s father and accidentally killed the boy.

In 2015, Graves was jailed on charges related to Jaeden’s death when he was indicted in the Dec. 17, 2013 slaying of Desmond Williams.

Investigators at the time said that Mr. Williams and Graves knew each other and that the shooting of Mr. Williams did not appear to be random.

At one point, Graves was facing a possibility of a death sentence, but without witness testimony towards the shooting of Mr. Williams and inconsistent testimony given by Jaeden’s mother —the lone witness to Jaeden’s shooting — prosecutors realized they had no chance of obtaining a death penalty.

Colin Warren-Hicks: 919-419-6636, @CWarrenHicks