04/02/14 — Case closed

View Archive

Case closed

By John Joyce
Published in News on April 2, 2014 1:46 PM

Kennedy McLaurin Jr.

Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Arnold Jones this morning sentenced the three men whose testimony helped the state convict Leonard Eugene Joyner for his role in the Sept. 9, 2012, first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping of 16-year-old Kennedy McLaurin Jr.

Jerome Butts, 20, who said he held McLaurin down in the car as it made its way to the site where the young man was beaten, burned and buried, will spend 58 to 82 months behind bars for the kidnapping and 125 to 162 months for the murder.

Curtis Ethridge, 19, who also entered guilty pleas for second-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping, was sentenced to 58 to 82 months for the kidnapping and 157 to 162 months for the murder.

And Kevin Smith, 20, who, according to an intelligence test conducted in jail is "legally retarded," also entered guilty pleas for second-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping.

Jones sentenced him to 58 to 82 months for the kidnapping and 157 to 201 months for the murder.

Smith first entered his plea in December 2013 and agreed to testify against Joyner.

In return for his testimony, the court agreed not to sentence Smith until after Joyner had been convicted and sentenced, and to take his cooperation into consideration.

During Smith's plea proceeding, Assistant District Attorney Matthew Delbridge read aloud a statement Smith gave to police during the investigation -- revealing publicly, for the first time, details that would emerge during the trial.

McLaurin got into a car parked on Bain Street in the Woodcrest Housing Community Sept. 9, 2012 to sell drugs to Joyner, Butts and Ethridge.

He allegedly produced a gun in an attempt to rob the them.

During a struggle over the weapon, the young man was shot.

The car, with McLaurin still inside, drove away.

Joyner called Smith and told him to "be ready," and when Joyner and the other men arrived at Smith's home, Smith got into the car with two shovels.

The four drove McLaurin to a secluded field off Carmack Road in Seven Springs and disposed of his remains.

The next day, they returned to the site and moved the body.

A Wayne County jury convicted Joyner Monday after a trial that lasted eight days and saw nearly two dozen witnesses called and hundreds of items admitted into evidence.

Jones sentenced Joyner to life in prison without the possibility of parole.