2 of 3 men charged in 2015 homicide plead guilty to manslaughter
Two of three men charged in a 2015 homicide in east Anchorage entered guilty pleas in what court documents describe as an attempt to collect a debt gone horribly wrong.
Quinton Henderson, 40, and Nathaniel Terrell, 37, both faced several charges including murder, burglary, armed robbery and being a felon in possession of a firearm in the death of 19-year-old Byzantium Hill.
The state dropped a murder charge against the third person originally charged, then 40-year-old Christopher Winters.
According to court documents, Henderson and Terrell were armed when they went to a house near South Lane Street and East 6th Avenue in the Russian Jack neighborhood during the early morning hours of August 23, 2015. After entering the home by force, a struggle ensued between the two men and three people inside the home, identified in court documents as J.E., J.S., and K.W.
As the struggle in the home escalated to multiple people shooting, Hill, a visitor in the home, was struck by a bullet as he came to investigate what was going on.
"Somewhere, a stray bullet just catches him. Right through the heart. One shot and he died," said defense attorney Craig Howard, representing Henderson in court Tuesday.
Attorneys on both sides of the case describe Hill as being in the wrong place at the wrong time, saying they don't believe he was involved in organized illegal activity at the home, nor was he an intended target.
Tuesday, both Henderson and Terrell each pleaded guilty to a charge of manslaughter, and Superior Court Judge Michael Corey sentenced them to 20 years each.
No one KTVA spoke with in the courtroom was able to say with certainty how much time they'll actually spend behind bars, but Assistant District Attorney James Klugman, who prosecuted the case, said they could be granted a parole hearing after serving as little as five years of their sentences. Taking the time they've already served into consideration, the opportunity for parole could be available to them in roughly two-and-a-half-years.
"You just better know, each time you come up for parole, I'm going to be there to fight against you with each and everything I have," Hill's mother said in court Tuesday, addressing Henderson and Terrell as she delivered a victim impact statement via telephone.
She described her son as a sweet, loving, young man who would have turned 22 next month:
"He had his whole life in front of him. I miss my child each and every day. And I'll never know what type of father he would make. They never gave him a chance to be one. Nor will I ever see him get his first strand of gray hair. On August 22, 2015, was the last time I spoke with my son. He called me and told me he was coming to see me, but I didn't know he was going to be in a cold casket when he got here [...] You two guys tore my family apart and my heart apart, and left a lot of broken-hearted friends."
Terrell declined to speak in court, but when given the opportunity to make a statement, Henderson expressed remorse for his part in the events that led to Hill's death.
"I just want to say, I apologize about the whole situation. My condolences to the victim's family. I have a family also, and I would like to get back to my family one day, but this is not how I wanted everything to play out, me being gone for 20 years. But, I accept my responsibilities for everything that happened and I'm sorry, again. That's all I have to say."
Henderson's attorney told the judge that while the two men went to the Russian Jack home armed that night, someone else gave the order.
"This gentleman has so insulated himself from prosecution, that he'll never be prosecuted for this offense, even though he was the mastermind of it," said Howard, referring to Winters.
ADA Klugman disagreed with Howard's characterization of the state's case against Winters, saying Winters was scheduled to go to trial the following month.
Winters was originally charged with first-degree murder and four class C felony assault charges, but only faced two of the assault charges at the time of his co-defendants' plea hearing.
According to court documents, two of the men in the home, J.S. and K.W., owed Winters more than $7,500 they'd borrowed from him-- plus interest.
Henderson told detectives that he told men at the home a "white boy' named "Chris" who drove a "white Range Rover" had sent them. J.S. told investigators that "Chris" lived in a home in south Anchorage and had been threatening J.S. and K.W. over the unpaid debt during the week leading up to the homicide.
When detectives made contact with Winters, he showed them some of the threats he'd sent to the men but insisted he had never carried them out.
A warrant for his cellphone records showed Winters sent a text on August 19 saying, "Where's my f***ing money??? You f***ers are going in the ground."
A text sent on August 21 read, "You are 6 days behind paying and it's tone [sic] you learn right from wrong," as well as a text saying, "When tomorrow comes and I get no money it's wide open."
He sent several other texts threatening violence and death, up until the evening of August 22, eight hours before the home invasion.
According to court documents, one of the final texts read, "Hopefully I can get cowboy boots made out of your skin... That would be worth 7K to me!"
Winters was represented by Rex Butler, Anchorage's highest-profile defense attorney. Butler said the state dropped its "bogus" murder charge against his client. A jury later acquitted Winters of the two felony assault charges.
He was convicted of misdemeanor telephone harassment and sentenced to a fine, but no jail time.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to include the outcome of Christopher Winters' case.
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