Two teens charged in Rock Hill murder; 3rd still sought

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comJanuary 13, 2014 

— Two teenagers wanted for murder walked into the lobby of the Rock Hill Police Department Monday morning and turned themselves in, police say.

Dontavion Qua’mek White, 17, and Maurice Lamont Burris, 16, are charged with murder, criminal conspiracy, armed robbery, possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime and possession of a firearm while under the age of 18, police said.

Burris, a juvenile under state law, will be tried as an adult because of the severity of the allegations.

A third suspect, for whom police do not have a description, remained at large late Monday.

At about 2 p.m. Friday, officers found Michael Giddens, 25, unresponsive in his Cedar Grove Lane home off North Cherry Road, suffering from a gunshot wound to the abdomen, according to a police report. He was pronounced dead at Piedmont Medical Center a short time later.

Municipal Court judges denied bond for White and Burris on Monday. Only Circuit Court judges are allowed to set bond for people charged with murder.

Burris said nothing during his morning bond hearing, aside from mumbling, “No, your honor,” when Judge Peter Lenzi asked if he had any questions. He said he did not want to be assigned a public defender.

He was stone-faced, staring ahead and occasionally lifting his cuffed hands to scratch his chin and wipe his nose.

With Giddens’ mother sitting only feet away, Lenzi ordered Burris – or anyone on his behalf – not to contact any witnesses or members of Giddens’ family. Giddens’ cousin, Shelby Preslar, wrapped her arms around Tatiana Giddens as she rocked her leg up and down and put her head in her hands.

White appeared before Judge Ray Long in the afternoon, when he learned that he qualified for a public defender but also would not be released from jail on bond any time soon.

White, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a Batman logo, told Long he lives on Willowbrook Avenue with his mother. He remained quiet for much of the hearing.

Burris and White will be sent to the York County Detention Center, where they will wait to appear before a Circuit Court judge, who will decide whether to set bond.

None of Burris’ family members attended his hearing. Members of White’s family declined to comment, except for one woman, who said, “It’s unbelievable, you know.”

After the hearing, Preslar said she wants to see whoever killed her cousin spend the rest of their lives in prison.

“He was the realest person you’d ever meet,” Preslar said. She last saw him a week ago when he and his lifelong friend, Jonathan Barrett, were working on a car.

Customizing cars was one of Giddens’ favorite hobbies, Barrett told The Herald. He was also a tattoo artist and enjoyed spending time with friends and playing video games. Barrett left Giddens’ home 10 minutes before his best friend was shot, he said.

Barrett’s mother, Angela Barrett, has known Giddens and his mother for years. After the hearing, she called Giddens a “good kid with a lot of friends.”

“I don’t think I’ve even accepted it,” she said of his death.

As Barrett sat in the courtroom, she kept her eyes on Burris.

“He showed no remorse,” she said. “He looked right at us. I saw no emotions at all.”

Both White and Burris attend the Renaissance Academy in Rock Hill, an alternative school for students that gives them a second chance if they’ve lost other educational opportunities. White is a 10th-grader; Burris is a ninth-grader.

“With any of our students, we’re going to try to offer them support and foster pro-social behavior,” said Jamie Quinn, the school’s director. “Sometimes in that business, you’re going to have some tragedies; you’re going to have some heartbreaks. The ones that we still have, we try to keep them on track.”

On Friday, several neighbors told police they saw men chasing Giddens and another man around the house before one of them followed Giddens into the home. Then, they heard gunshots.

One witness told police he had been sleeping inside the home when he was awakened by the sound of gunfire. He told police someone pointed a gun at him and asked if he wanted to get shot, too.

The gunman then ran out of the house and got into a blue Mercury Mountaineer, police say.

When police found the SUV on Sirrine Street, off Dave Lyle Boulevard, later on Friday, they recovered a handgun they believe was used in the shooting, said Executive Officer Mark Bollinger of the Rock Hill Police Department. A shotgun believed to have belonged to Giddens was recovered by officers as they tracked the suspects from the car.

Neighbors spotted another man, possibly a victim, jump inside a white Kia and leave the area. That Kia was found in the parking lot of Calvary Baptist Church on North Jones Avenue. Police are still investigating its connection with the shooting, Bollinger said.

Police have not released a motive in the shooting, but were able to develop Burris and White as suspects using information from witnesses and several anonymous tips, Bollinger said.

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