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Defendant pleads guilty to February shooting at Columbia liquor store

Monday, November 16, 2009 | 5:46 p.m. CST; updated 8:13 p.m. CST, Monday, November 16, 2009
Corey Brown is shown with his older son, Jailen, on the day he was born, Aug. 4, 2007. Brown was fatally shot Feb. 16, 2009, at the age of 18 behind Ballenger Liquor and C store.

FULTON — The teen accused of killing another teen in the parking lot of a Columbia liquor store pleaded guilty Monday in a hearing that exposed the emotional toll the case has taken on the families of both the victim and the defendants. 

Bradley Enyart, 17, pleaded guilty to charges of voluntary manslaughter and armed criminal action. In a plea agreement, he was sentenced to 15 and 22 years on the charges, to be served concurrently. He is the last of six defendants to plead guilty to charges related to the shooting death of Corey Brown in February.

After Enyart’s plea, Brown’s mother, Sherry Sanders, broke down while reading a statement she’d prepared for the court. 

“When my son died, a part of my soul died with him,” she said, crying, the paper shaking in her hands. Brown would have been 19 on Thursday. 

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Morrell came up behind Sanders and put a hand on her shoulder.

“I’ll never be able to read this,” Sanders said, voice wavering. She lowered the statement and began speaking freely, turning to Enyart and telling him, “I hope you find peace with yourself.”

Enyart — wearing an orange jailhouse jumpsuit — then gave a formal apology to the court, even though his sentence had already been set.

“I want to sincerely apologize for the turmoil my actions and poor decisions have caused,” he said. “I put my family into a tough position.” 

Enyart’s parents were in attendance, and his mother wept as he spoke. 

“There are many things in my life I regret,” he said. 

On the night of Feb. 16, Enyart went to the Ballenger Liquor and C-Store in northeast Columbia with three other men and met with Brown, Ashtin Weger, 20, and Andre Lee, 21.  The two sides were apparently planning to rob each other of cash and marijuana, which neither side brought.

A probable cause statement says Enyart demanded money from Weger and, in the process, shot Brown in the pelvis. The statement said Enyart had told police that he was trying to shoot over the victim. Brown died at University Hospital shortly after. 

With Enyart that night were Nikolaus Wadlow, 16, Nick Weavers, 21, and Michael McHenry, 17.

Courts determined Wadlow and Enyart could be tried as adults. 

The six young men pleaded guilty to a total of nine felony charges, including attempted robbery and armed criminal action. Though all six were initially charged with murder, only Enyart would plead guilty to the homicide.

Hearings have been well-attended by defendants’ family members. 

Even though Enyart's case had been transferred to Callaway County, McHenry’s parents were at Monday’s hearing. Hurlee McHenry — Michael McHenry’s father — has said he would come to every hearing for the case. His son is set to be sentenced for first-degree attempted robbery on Jan. 4, 2010; Weavers and Wadlow face sentencing Dec. 7. 

After the hearing, Sanders said she was still planning to attend the remaining sentencing hearings. “It’s not over,” she said. 

“I work two jobs to keep from thinking about it,” Sanders said. “That’s not healthy. I know it’s not.” She shook her head. 

“I’m afraid to finally get to the point to finally accept that my son is gone,” she said. “It’s hard. And I am thankful that God blessed us with my two grandsons.”

Brown left behind two boys: Jailen, 2, and Xavier, who is 8 months old. Their mothers take care of them, but Sanders keeps them close.

“Every opportunity I have a day off, I like to visit them and get them together so they can experience each other and get to know Corey through my family,” she said.

Despite the continued pain — Corey's birthday and the coming holidays will be especially tough — Sanders says she isn’t bitter towards Enyart. 

“I don’t choose to carry the anger with me every day of my life,” she said. “I can’t. If I want to be a productive citizen in the community, I have to forgive. I’m never going to forget, ever — but I have to forgive. It’s the only way.”


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