Rock Hill teen accepts plea deal to testify against others in fatal shooting

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comMay 23, 2014 

— If he keeps his end of a deal to testify against the alleged gang member police say killed a Rock Hill man in his home four months ago, a teenage murder defendant will spend only a decade behind bars.

Dontavion “Qua’Mek” White, 17, on Friday pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact to murder and conspiracy to purchase marijuana in connection with the January shooting death of Michael Giddens, 25, at his home on Cedar Grove Lane, off Cherry Road, in Rock Hill.

As part of a plea agreement with prosecutors, White, one of three accused in Giddens’ slaying, will receive a 10-year prison sentence. He’ll then serve an additional 90 days in jail on the drug conspiracy charge, prosecutors said.

His murder and weapons charges were dismissed. Circuit Court Judge Edward Welmaker accepted the plea. Because sentencing has been deferred to a later date, White did not address the court, nor did anyone on his behalf. But after the hearing, White’s attorney, Deputy 16th Circuit Public Defender B.J. Barrowclough, said his client is a “good kid” with a lot of potential.

“Qua’Mek can definitely do a lot with his life,” Barrowclough said.

In January, White, a junior at the Renaissance Academy in Rock Hill, approached a classmate about possibly buying marijuana along with Maurice Lamont Burris, then 16, said Willy Thompson, deputy 16th Circuit solicitor. White learned that another friend, 19-year-old Abdul Emmanuel, also was interested in buying pot. After picking up Emmanuel from his home, the four teens drove to a Cedar Grove Lane home to buy the drugs.

Giddens was not involved in the drug deal, Thompson said, but had been sitting on the living room floor with a shotgun in his lap as he spoke with his girlfriend over the telephone. White remained in the car while Emmanuel, Burris and the classmate knocked on the door.

Once they entered the house, Emmanuel allegedly drew a gun, Thompson said, demanding that Giddens’ roommate hand over “the goods.” Emmanuel then shot Giddens before wresting the gun from Giddens’ hands and leaving the house.

White, Thompson said, never got out of the car. Emmanuel and Burris returned to the car, while the classmate fled along with the other residents. When Emmanuel spotted them running, Thompson said he began chasing and firing at them. He eventually got back into the car and the teens drove away, abandoning the car.

Prosecutors and police allege that Emmanuel’s mother, Pamela St. Hill, and sister, LaToya St. Hill, helped the young men flee to Chester and then to Charlotte to evade arrest. Eventually, both White and Burris turned themselves in to police. They were denied bond but, while incarcerated at the York County Detention Center, have been cooperative with prosecutors.

Part of that cooperation includes White’s decision to testify against Emmanuel should his case go to trial, and also testifying against both St. Hill women, who were charged as accessories to murder. He also is assisting police with any other “crimes he has knowledge about,” said Thompson, who after court would not elaborate on what those crimes might be.

Emmanuel, who police say is a member of alleged Rock Hill street gang, 715 FAM, is also accused in several drive-by shootings and armed robberies, facing several attempted murder, criminal conspiracy and weapons charges.

If White changes his mind and opts not to testify against Emmanuel, the plea deal will be rescinded and prosecutors can restore the murder charges. But, should Emmanuel or the St. Hill women plead guilty before a trial, White’s plea deal will remain in effect, Barrowclough said.

Police records show that White and Burris were considered suspected members of 715 FAM after they were charged in an assault on a teen at the Galleria Walmart last summer. Details about White’s prior offenses, Thompson said, will not be considered until the sentencing hearing, likely not to happen until cases for all defendants associated with Giddens’ death are disposed in court.

Members of White’s family declined to comment.

After Giddens’ death, relatives and friends said he was a talented tattoo artist. Tatiana Giddens, his mother, declined to comment, but as she left the courthouse Friday, she told The Herald: “My son was a beautiful person is all I can say.”

Jonathan McFadden •  803-329-4082

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