Crime

How a drug-fueled drive and decision to rob a Hispanic person led to murder in Durham

Durham man continues to honor homicide victims with 60-foot quilt after 23 years

Video: Sidney Brodie sews on the 696th square onto his Durham Homicide and Victims of Violent Death Memorial Quilt on Wednesday June 14, 2017.
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Video: Sidney Brodie sews on the 696th square onto his Durham Homicide and Victims of Violent Death Memorial Quilt on Wednesday June 14, 2017.

Khalil Knight and two others had been driving around and smoking marijuana for about 24 hours when they ran out of money and decided to find a Hispanic person to rob, a prosecutor said Thursday.

Around 8 a.m. June 11, 2017, Bernabe Dubon, who had four children and 12 grandchildren, set out to walk to the store to send money to family members outside the United States. In his native Honduras Dubon was a teacher and a principal, but he worked as a carpenter in North Carolina.

Knight, along with Monet Wise and Kenneth Gibbs, then ages 23 and 21, saw Dubon and decided he would be the one, said Assistant District Attorney Kendra Montgomery-Blinn.

A half-hour later police found the 62-year-old shot in the foot and lower pelvis, dying from internal bleeding, on Fidelity Drive and Rainer Street near Weldon Village and Wheels Fun Park.

On Thursday, Knight, now 24, took responsibility for killing Dubon.

He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, attempted robbery and possession of a firearm by a felon.

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Khalil Knight pleaded guilty Thursday Aug. 29, 2019 to second-degree murder and other charges in the July 2017 death of Bernabe Dubon. Virginia Bridges vbridges@newsobserver.com

‘Examining every decision’

Knight wants Dubon’s family to know “how truly sorry he is,” his attorney, Christine Malumphy, said.

“He’s been examining every decision he made leading up to that and will continue to question those poor choices for the rest of his life,” she said.

Under a plea deal, Knight will serve from 18 years to 23 years in prison on the second-degree murder charge and an additional five years to seven years on the other charges. Second-degree murder doesn’t include premeditation.

Knight faced a possible maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for the second-degree murder charge and up to 28 years for the other charges.

Many factors were considered in the plea deal, Montgomery-Blinn said.

The ample evidence in the case included witnesses, statements from his co-defendants, surveillance video and Knight’s confession.

The deal considered that Knight targeted Dubon, was the leader of the group and brought the gun. Knight was also on probation for two felonies, the prosecutor said.

Two months earlier, Knight had been convicted of possessing stolen goods and speeding to elude arrest and was sentenced to probation, according to the N.C. Department of Corrections website.

The plea deal also takes into consideration he was only 22, that he confessed, and that he has support of a close family and church community, Montgomery-Blinn said.

That means he had the resources to make better decisions, she said, “but also that he has the support to turn his life around,” when he gets out of prison.

The plea also allows Dubon’s family, some of whom were in the courtroom but didn’t speak, to move forward, she said.

June 11, 2017

After the three people in the car saw Dubon that June morning, they turned around the corner, the prosecutor said. Knight got out of the car and ran behind houses to head his victim off.

Knight tried to rob Dubon, but he resisted.

Dubon reached in his wallet, which contained thousands of dollars, and threw $20 at Knight, the attorneys said. He may have used a board to fight back.

Knight shot Dubon twice and ran back to the car, leaving the wallet and the $20, Montgomery-Blinn said.

Knight and the two other people drove around until police pulled them over around 3:30 p.m. that day. The car Knight was driving belonged to Gibbs’ sister, who had reported it stolen.

When Knight got out of the car, an unspent shell fell out, Montgomery-Blinn said.

Malumphy said Knight was addicted to cocaine and that the drug fueled him and his co-defendants, whose charges are pending.

“It was an insistent desire for more cocaine that led to Ms. Wise to suggest a robbery and led Khalil to oblige her,” Malumphy said.

Since then, Knight has transformed himself, his attorney said.

“He has become the version of himself that family and friends loved before cocaine,” she said.

Before Judge Michael O’Foghludha sentenced Knight formally, the defendant asked if he could spend time with his toddler son and mother before he left.

O’Foghludha denied that request, but granted another. He allowed Knight to hug his mother before he was taken back to jail.

“I love you,” he said during the embrace.

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Virginia Bridges covers criminal justice in Orange and Durham counties for The Herald-Sun and The News & Observer. She has worked for newspapers for more than 15 years. In 2017, the N.C. Press Association awarded her first place for beat feature reporting. The N.C. State Bar Association awarded her the 2018 Media & Law Award for Best Series.
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