A judge sentenced Kenan Adams-Kinard to 20 years in prison Thursday for the 2013 murder of World War II veteran Delbert ‘Shorty’ Belton.
Adams-Kinard, 17, pleaded guilty on Jan. 7 to severely beating Belton in the parking lot of the Eagles Lodge as Belton sat in his car. His accused accomplice, Demetruis Glenn, is scheduled to stand trial in March.
Grief, forgiveness and redemption were on the minds of friends and family for both killer and victim.
Two of Belton’s nephews, as well as his friend Martha Denison, spoke before the sentencing, remembering the man they knew and loved, while expressing hope that Adams-Kinard could change.
Through tears, they described Belton as soft-spoken, patriotic and unfailingly kind.
“If he needed money or something,” Denison said, referring to Adams-Kinard, “all he had to do was ask and Shorty would have given it up without a problem.”
Nephew Steve Belton spoke about Belton’s service in Okinawa, and described him as the “patriarch” of the family - the last of his siblings left alive.
“He was small in stature, but he made up for it with heart,” he said.
All three credited Adams-Kinard for taking responsibility for his actions by pleading guilty. Steve Belton said he had prayed for the teen more than once, and would continue doing so.
“I hope that during this whole process, when he’s done with everything he has to do, he thinks twice about ever doing this again,” Denison said.
Adams-Kinard read the court a lengthy prepared statement in which he asked for forgiveness and assured the Belton family that he has grown into a better person since the night he killed Belton.
“Life is a precious gift, and to know that I have taken the life of another person has severed my spirit,” he said. “From this day forward, I intend to turn the page and start a new chapter in my life.”
He did not address the accusation made in a letter tied to Adams-Kinard claiming the 88-year-old man shorted the teen on a crack deal. Belton’s friends and family have dismissed the claim as absurd, and police said there was no evidence to support it.
Adams-Kinard’s mother, Tracy Adams, pleaded for mercy from Judge Annette Plese and said anyone who knew her son would describe him as “a sweet kid with a good spirit” who loved sports and went to church.
“Standing here today is a place that I never thought I’d be standing,” she said.
Following the sentencing, the Belton relatives who spoke shook hands with Adams.
Judge Annette Plese said it was apparent Adams-Kinard had matured since he first appeared in her courtroom.
“You’re owning up and taking accountability for your actions. That’s what a man does,” she said.
Two robbery-related charges against Adams-Kinard were dropped in exchange for his plea. He was also ordered to pay about $6,400 in fines and restitution.
He will serve his time in a juvenile facility until he is 21.
Because Adams-Kinard is a minor being tried as an adult, a state law mandating a 20 year minimum sentence for first-degree murder does not apply to him, which means he will also be eligible for early release due to good behavior.
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