A plea deal was offered Monday for the third suspect charged in the 2013 shooting death of a 33-year-old mother of four at a Columbia bakery.
In a deal negotiated between prosecutors and defense attorneys, assistant solicitors Luck Campbell, Dolly Garfield and Nicole Simpson offered to reduce the murder charge against 20-year-old Troy Stevenson to voluntary manslaughter for his alleged involvement in the death of Kelly Hunnewell.
The deal, assistant prosecutors said, is only good until 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, when jurors are sworn in.
The offer includes a 20-year prison sentence with no chance at parole, but Stevenson would have a chance to leave after 17 years served for good behavior.
But it would be unlikely that Stevenson would leave prison, since he also is facing charges in the killing of second-degree burglary, attempted armed robbery and kidnapping, which carry a total maximum sentencing of 60 years. He is being represented by attorney Aimee Zmroczek.
If Stevenson takes the plea deal, he would be sentenced on all the charges at the same time.
Monday, a jury of seven blacks and five whites was seated. Shortly after Circuit Judge Robert Hood dismissed the jury around 4 p.m., the prosecution offered Stevenson the deal.
Two of Stevenson’s co-defendants, Lorenzo Barnes and Trenton Young, were both found guilty of murder last year.
Around 3:45 a.m. July 1, 2013, Stevenson, then 18, is accused of being the “lookout” for his younger half-brother Barnes, then 16, and Young, then 18, as they entered the small Carolina Cafe bakery at 13 Tommy Circle, off Beltline Boulevard near Covenant Road, to try to rob the shop.
Hunnewell, who was alone at the time, tried to defend herself using a large, silver cooking spoon.
She was shot multiple times, police later said.
Hunnewell had four children, who were ages 13, 9, 8 and 6 at the time of her death.
The suspects were arrested about a week after the killing, and it was discovered that Young and Stevenson were out on bond awaiting trial on other charges at the time – prompting public outrage and calls for bond reform.
During pre-trial statements in Richland County court Monday, Columbia Police Department investigators testified that while they were interviewing Barnes on July 5, 2013, Stevenson voluntarily came to the department to deny his involvement in the crime. While being interviewed, investigators later testified, Stevenson became boisterous and profane with them before requesting an attorney.
Although Stevenson was told he was free to leave, investigators said they handcuffed Stevenson before they brought in Barnes to speak with him in front of investigators for fear he would attack his half-brother. Stevenson allegedly became upset after Barnes told investigators Stevenson was the one who shot Hunnewell.
Prosecutors would later argue during trial that Barnes was the trigger man.
In December 2014, Young and Barnes, tried together, were found guilty of murder. But for the first time, a South Carolina judge held a separate hearing after the trial to listen to arguments from the prosecution and defense about what kind of sentence a defendant should receive, since Barnes was just 16 when the crime occurred.
Barnes, now 18, was sentenced to 50 years, while Young, now 20, is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.