Appearing stoic and answering a judge’s questions with a monotone “Yes, sir,” Kenan Adams-Kinard, 17, changed his plea to guilty today in the 2013 murder of World War II veteran Delbert “Shorty” Belton.
As part of the plea deal, robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery charges against Adams-Kinard will be dropped.
Adams-Kinard and an accomplice approached Belton in his car, parked outside the Eagles Lodge, and beat him on the night of Aug. 21, 2013. Belton died from his injuries the next day.
The joint sentencing recommendation is for 20 years in prison, with credit for time served. A judge, however, can impose a sentence within the standard range of 20 years to nearly 28 years at a separate sentencing hearing.
Prosecutor Larry Haskell said the recommendation took into account teenage “maturity and impetuosity” and was at the low end of the range because Adams-Kinard did not use a weapon and grew up in a troubled home environment.
The hearing grew tense after Adams-Kinard entered his guilty plea, with a brief but loud argument erupting between several of his supporters and a relative of Belton who were in the room.
The relative began yelling loudly that an Adams-Kinard supporter had “flipped her off” and threatened her, which that supporter denied. Other Belton relatives urged her to calm down, while court staff escorted the Adams-Kinard supporters from the room.
Relatives of Belton declined to comment the plea and said they planned to make a statement at the sentencing hearing, which has not yet been set.
Ezra Kinlow, a pastor at Holy Temple Church who married Adams-Kinard’s parents, said he had no comment on Adams-Kinard’s guilt or innocence, but said he felt “sad” watching the plea.
“I think the public convicted him before his time,” he said. But he apologized to the Belton family and said there was no justification for Belton’s death.
“We make mistakes, some more serious than others, but we feel also that if you do the crime, you pay the time,” he said.
Another 17-year-old charged in the homicide, Demetruis Glenn, has not changed his not-guilty plea. His trial is currently scheduled for Monday, Jan. 12.
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