Rock Hill man sentenced to 16 years after manslaughter plea

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comAugust 5, 2013 

— The mother of a Rock Hill man stabbed more than 30 times when he delivered drugs for a friend last year collapsed in tears minutes after rehearing details of her son’s death.

Bailiffs escorted Debra Pickett out of a York courtroom Monday as she held her hands in the air and cried out, “My baby, my baby ... talk to me, Jesus ... my baby.”

Moments later, Christopher Ray Morris, 32, a man who family members said did not know Talbert Demarrio Pickett, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter. He’ll serve 16 years behind bars, Circuit Court Judge Michael Nettles ruled.

For Katara Pickett Hicks, Pickett’s sister, and several other family members who filled an entire side of the courtroom, it’s not enough.

Early on Dec. 8, 2012, police were sent to the 1100 block of Ellen Avenue after receiving a call from Donald Earl Kobbe that Talbert Pickett, 28, had been stabbed to death during what police called a botched drug deal. By the time police arrived, Pickett’s friends had already rushed him to Piedmont Medical Center, where he died of 32 stab wounds, his mother said.

Before Pickett’s death, Kobbe told prosecutors that he and Morris had been playing pool and drinking beer until Kobbe decided to contact his “regular” drug dealer, called “Q,” to purchase $100 worth of crack cocaine, said Willy Thompson, deputy 16th Circuit Court solicitor.

“Q” sent a friend, Pickett, instead, he said. When Pickett arrived in a burgundy Crown Victoria that Thompson called a “community car” used by various people, Morris got into the car’s passenger seat.

He said he left his money in another pair of pants and asked Pickett to drive him to his house, just up the street from Kobbe’s home. Pickett complied, Thompson said.

Had the case gone to trial, Thompson said Kobbe would have testified against Morris, claiming he did not see the stabbing, but later saw Pickett slumped over in the car. He realized what happened when Morris ran into his house, carrying a bloody knife, apron and cellophane wrapping that the drugs were kept in, Thompson said.

Pickett had been stabbed more than 30 times in the chest, neck and face. The wounds were “immediately fatal,” Thompson said.

Kobbe said Morris implied that he “did this for” Kobbe because he owed “Q” money. Morris told police and prosecutors that Pickett first attacked him with a knife when he became “agitated” that he had to drive Morris to his house before getting the cash, Thompson said.

Pickett’s friends took him to the hospital, while Kobbe called police. Police questioned both Kobbe and Morris before charging them with murder, armed robbery and criminal conspiracy.

Morris, a mechanic from Aiken who had been in Rock Hill looking for work, has been in jail since. He has a “magistrate-level record” and has cared for four stepchildren, two biological children, a disabled wife and a disabled brother, said Harry Dest, 16th Circuit Court public defender.

“His personality doesn’t match the facts,” said Mindy Hervey Lipinski, also of the public defender’s office. “Things went horribly wrong that night. ... He’s remorseful about what happened to the victim.”

Katara Pickett Hicks, Pickett’s sister, said her brother was robbed of the chance to tell his side of the story.

“I question whether 16 years is justifiable for such a brutal murder,” she said.

Pickett had just lost his job at T.J. Maxx in Charlotte and turned to the streets, his sister said.

After the hearing, Hicks said she wanted “a life for a life.”

By the time Morris gets out of prison, he will be 49, she said, and the 16 years will give him time to “rest, clear his mind ... and get back out in society and do the same thing again.”

Family members said Pickett was not a drug dealer, but a “loyal friend” who drove that night because none of his friends had driver’s licenses.

Kobbe is scheduled to appear before a judge within the next week.

Jonathan McFadden •  803-329-4082

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