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Emotions boil over during sentencing hearings for Corey Brown slaying

Monday, December 7, 2009 | 9:22 p.m. CST
Corey Brown, 18, with his son, Jailen, on the day he was born, Aug. 4, 2007. Corey Brown was fatally shot Monday, apparently the victim of a botched robbery attempt.

COLUMBIA — The sprawling prosecution for the February slaying of Corey Brown drew nearer to its close Monday afternoon as three men received prison sentences in separate hearings at the Boone County Courthouse. Of the six men charged with involvement in the crime, all six have pleaded guilty; only one remains to be sentenced.

The day's hearings were marked by a wide array of emotions — sadness, anger and even thanks.

First to appear was Nick Weavers, 21, who pleaded guilty to first-degree attempted robbery Aug. 17.

Brown's mother, Sherry Sanders, came to the stand carrying a box of tissues to give a victim impact statement. She quickly began to cry.

"I have two other sons who are growing up without a brother, and two grandsons who are growing up without a father," Sanders said.

One of Brown's sons, Jailen, 2, was in court, wearing a blue Royals hat too big for his head.

"I am not a vengeful person, but I want justice for my son," Sanders said. She said the fact that Weavers had a possibility for probation greatly upset her and would devalue her son's life if Weavers walked the street so soon after what happened.

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

Shooting broke out, and Brown was hit. He died shortly later at University Hospital.

Weavers' attorney, Kevin O'Brien — who persistently argued for probation — said that the court should have leniency on Weavers because he never had a gun, didn't get out of the vehicle during the incident and cooperated fully with police.

After Circuit Judge Kevin Crane sentenced Weavers to "shock" probation — the possibility of just 120 days in prison with probation instead of a full 10-year sentence — a chorus of whispers emerged from the corner of the courtroom where Sanders sat with more than a dozen family and friends.

Shortly after, Lee – who had arrived at the liquor store with Brown – came before Crane to be sentenced. He had pleaded guilty to first-degree attempted robbery and armed criminal action Sept. 8, but when Sanders came to the stand to give her second victim impact statement of the afternoon, she pleaded for mercy.

"He was there as my son's protector," Sanders said. Lee "provided guidance" for Brown and was only there to help her son, she said.

"I feel almost guilty that he's here," she said.

"You and I have a difference of opinion," Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Morrell said. Morrell said that Lee fired at the Jeep multiple times and then ran and hid the guns.

Lee's attorney, Gerald Mueller, called Lee's mother, Delores Armstrong, to the stand. Armstrong outlined her son's lifelong history of psychiatric problems, saying he had most recently been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

Lee was given 12- and 10-year sentences, to be served concurrently.

Lee then addressed the court.

"I know what I did was wrong," he said, his voice catching in his throat. "I miss Corey dearly." There was hardly a dry eye in the gallery where his mother sat with Sanders.

After Lee was led away, however, tensions boiled over in the hallway outside the courtroom.

Armstrong's husband pointed his finger at Morrell and shouted, "You are wrong" as she walked down the hallway to the next hearing in the case. "You are wrong!"

Down the hall, the scene was more placid as Nikolaus Wadlow's family watched the 17-year-old receive a sentence from Circuit Judge Gene Hamilton. They leaned forward in their front-row seats as they strained to hear the judgment in the cavernous Ceremonial Courtroom. Then came the sentence: 10 years.

Yet there was no sobbing. Wadlow, who was in the Jeep with Weavers, had been certified to be tried as an adult but will likely serve time in a juvenile facility until he is 21, at which point he could be released on probation. Outside the courtroom, his family hugged and thanked Wadlow's attorney, Kimberly Shaw.

Sanders, hours later, didn't think the varying punishments made sense, saying "it doesn't add up."

"The people that were with Corey got far more time than the people who were in the vehicle," she said after Weavers' sentencing.

In a previous hearing, Weger — who, like Lee, was with Brown at the time of the shooting — had also pleaded guilty to first-degree attempted robbery and armed criminal action. He received two 15-year sentences to be served concurrently.

On the other side?

Bradley Enyart — the 17-year-old accused of firing the shot that killed Brown — pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and armed criminal action and received 15- and 22-year sentences to be served concurrently.

A fourth man in the Jeep, Michael McHenry, 17, could also receive a sentence similar to Wadlow and Weavers' sentences. According to information provided in a probable cause statement, his actions in the shooting appear to be similarly limited.

"You think my son’s life was worth four months of (Weavers') time?" Sanders asked. "That, to me, doesn’t make sense."

The case's final hearing — for McHenry — is scheduled for Jan. 4, 2010.


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Comments

Terri Enyart December 8, 2009 | 2:42 p.m.

For the record Andre may have been shooting to protect Corey but Corey and Ashtin shot first therefore making Enyart the one returning fire to protect himself. I doubt the family has seen all of the discovery or they would know the ballistics can't prove that it was even Enyart's gun.
That said Enyart stepped up and took the voluntary manslaughter charge as well as armed criminal action and received 22 years.

As far as the co-defendants on Enyart's side getting lighter sentences...it's true for Nick but not because he is innocent. Nick should have received more than 4 months in prison and should not be able to do the rest of the 10 years on probation. He did not get out of the vehicle at the liquor store but he did at the park earlier and he knew what was planned. He knew they were planning to rob the others and he knew there was a gun in the vehicle.
None of them knew that it was going to be used. Only when Corey and Andre started shooting from behind the liquor store did Enyart shoot.....or was it Ashtin and Corey shooting and then Andre grabbed the gun to try to help? We will never know who really shot first but we do know it was not Enyart according to all but one of their statements. Enyart shot two maybe three bullets compared to their 30 bullets. Who was running for his life? Who shot to protect who? I would say it was Enyart running for his life and thank god there was not more than one casualty since their vehicle was completely shot up.

I feel bad for all of our families for this has devastated all of us. I hope Michael gets a higher sentence for he was the one who came up with the idea of not bringing the real drugs and trying to rob the others of their money. Him and his cousin Corey did this often (yes the Corey who lost his life). Michael also had the gun and walked up to Ashtin to rob him while he was walking to meet them at the liquor store. However Ashtin showed him his gun and he walked off. Ashtin didn't know it was him because his face was covered. So Michael is not innocent here either. I do feel bad for him and Andre for being a part of their cousin/friend losing his life. I'm sure it will bother their conscience as it will my son's for the rest of their lives.

Again, I am sorry for Corey's family's loss. It was unfortunate he lost his life in this incident. My son is paying for this by being sentenced to 22 years in prison. As we see from the varying degree of sentencing our legal system is not just. I hope Sherri can find some justice but she needs to understand that Andre and Michael, her son's friend and cousin, are also involved and culpable in her son's death, not just the four others and definitely not just Enyart.

(Report Comment)
Right December 8, 2009 | 3:13 p.m.

Check out Terri Enyart and her family on: https://www.courts.mo.gov/casenet/cases/...

This is the woman trying to convince you that her son was a victim of circumstance. Make your own conclusions, but don't expect an unbiased opinion from this killer's mother.

(Report Comment)
Terri Enyart December 8, 2009 | 3:23 p.m.

My son was not a victim of circumstances. He was there and therefore he is doing the time for his crime.

(Report Comment)
Anthony DeWitt December 8, 2009 | 5:26 p.m.

Ms Enyart:

My heart goes out to you and every other innocent victim. You have a right to be proud of your son for taking responsibility, and what mother wouldn't wish to turn back the clock. I found your statements life affirming, not excuse-making.

For the record, I agree that the sentencing of the individuals appears disproportionate, but it is a fact of the criminal justice system that the lawyer and advocate plays a role in how much time is handed down. The facts and good advocacy may have made a difference.

Until we break the culture and glorification of violence in the age group and community we will find this kind of thing happening more and more. It means more parents like you, Ms. Enyart, need to be heard in schools and classrooms and in the community telling what happened to your son, and urging the youngest in the community away from this cycle of violence.

I wish you the comfort of God's presence, and I hope that your son uses his time to educate himself and grow as a person, so that he can be part of the solution when he gets out of prison.

A. L. DeWitt

(Report Comment)

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