Life sentence for North Carolina man in boy’s shooting death

December 30, 2022 GMT

WILSON, N.C. (AP) — A man charged in the fatal shooting of a 5-year-old boy in 2020 has been sentenced by a North Carolina judge to life in prison without parole as part of a plea agreement.

Darius Nathaniel Sessoms, 28, of Wilson, entered an Alford plea to a first-degree murder charge on Thursday, according to media outlets. In such a plea, a defendant doesn’t acknowledge guilt but concedes prosecutors have enough evidence for a conviction.

Prosecutors contended that Sessoms shot Cannon Hinnant on Aug. 9, 2020, when Cannon had been playing in the front yard of his father’s home along with his sisters and aunt. Sessoms was arrested the next day in Goldsboro.

The plea allowed Sessoms to avoid a potential death sentence had the case gone to trial. Superior Court Judge L. Lamont Wiggins had declared in October that Sessoms was eligible for the death penalty.

Wiggins sentenced Sessoms on Thursday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The plea agreement means that Cannon’s sisters won’t have to testify, according to his mother, Bonny Parker. She spoke in court on Thursday, calling Cannon “my pride and joy” and that Sessoms “made us suffer for the rest of our lives.”

The plea “brings us a little bit of peace,” Parker told WRAL-TV. “Knowing that we are walking out of here today and we don’t have to come back.”

Prosecutor Joel Stadiem said Sessoms walked back to his parents’ house nearby after the shooting. Sessoms’ parents previously told The Wilson Times their son appeared to be hallucinating the day of the shooting and may have been on drugs.

Aolani Takemi Marie Pettit, who had been Sessoms’ girlfriend at the time of the shooting, pleaded guilty Thursday to felony obstruction of justice and received a suspended sentence along with 18 months of probation, media outlets reported. Pettit originally had been charged with being an accessory after the fact in the shooting death.