Appearing stoic and answering a judge’s questions with a monotone “Yes, sir,” young Kenan Adams-Kinard pleaded guilty Wednesday to murdering World War II veteran Delbert “Shorty” Belton.
The 17-year-old Adams-Kinard faces a likely sentence of 20 years in prison, according to the recommendations of his plea bargain reached with prosecutors. Robbery charges were dropped.
Adams-Kinard and an alleged accomplice approached Belton, 88, in his car, parked outside the Eagles Lodge in north Spokane, and beat him on the night of Aug. 21, 2013. Belton died from his injuries the next day.
The 20-year prison recommendation is at the low end of the standard sentencing range that stretches to about 28 years. A judge will decide the prison term later this year.
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 teen was charged as an adult. Until he is 21, he will serve his time at a juvenile facility.
The hearing grew tense after Adams-Kinard pleaded guilty, with a brief but loud argument erupting inside the room between several of his supporters and a relative of Belton’s.
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.
Belton’s relatives declined to comment on 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 Kinlow 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, is scheduled to stand trial beginning Monday.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.