Teenager pleads guilty in Minneapolis alley slaying

  • Article by: ABBY SIMONS
  • Star Tribune
  • June 19, 2012 - 9:25 PM

Malcolm Maghundi Jackson appeared resigned Tuesday to a possible 25-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to gunning down Trequan Sykes in a south Minneapolis alley three weeks ago.

But for Sykes' family -- including his mother, who choked back sobs as the 16-year-old Jackson calmly explained how he shot Sykes twice in the back -- the deal to plead guilty to second-degree murder in the death of the Roosevelt High School sophomore offered little solace.

"I don't see how he can walk out [of prison] at 41 and my baby ain't never gonna walk again," Sykes' grandmother, Peggy Sykes, told Judge Mark Wernick, clutching a photo collage of Sykes that spanned his 16 years.

"I don't understand it. I really don't."

Jackson, who had been charged as a juvenile, waived adult certification proceedings Monday and pleaded guilty Tuesday to second-degree intentional murder in Hennepin County District Court.

In exchange for his plea, he likely will receive a 25 1/2-year sentence at a hearing scheduled for July 24. With good behavior, he could be paroled by age 33.

Jackson's plea came before Hennepin County prosecutors could convene a grand jury to indict him for first-degree murder, which carries a life sentence. Sykes' family disagreed with the plea deal, stating that Jackson deserved no less than life.

But prosecutors said it's a realistic sentence, given that Jackson was a teenage defendant with no criminal history, cooperated with police and agreed to be tried as an adult.

"This isn't a case where there's a good outcome," said Tom Arneson, managing attorney for the juvenile division of the Hennepin County attorney's office.

"We have a 16-year-old boy who's dead and nothing's going to bring him back, and another 16-year-old who's going to prison for a long time."

Arneson said that while the case for intentional homicide against Jackson was strong, the facts weren't as strong to prove that he planned the killing for any significant amount of time, a requirement for a first-degree murder conviction. He acknowledged that the speed of the plea was uncommon.

"It's fairly unusual to have somebody come in and accept responsibility this early in the process," Arneson said.

Jackson's attorney, Rachelle Stratton, declined to comment before Jackson's sentencing.

'Trying to kill him'

According to the charges, Jackson, known as "Bishop," had been in a fight with Sykes' 17-year-old brother two weeks before the shooting and had stashed a revolver outside South High School in preparation for a confrontation.

The shooting happened when Jackson and two others, who were not charged, met Sykes and two of his siblings, both 14, in an alley not far from their homes near 29th Street and Bloomington Avenue S.

After Jackson allegedly pointed the gun at the 14-year-olds, he and Sykes exchanged words. Jackson then fired at Sykes from a distance of 3 to 4 feet as Sykes ushered his siblings away and turned to walk inside.

Under questioning from Stratton, Jackson admitted to the events in court, telling Wernick that he was near 29th and Bloomington and saw people on a porch he wanted to avoid because Sykes' brother, Drequan, had beaten him up earlier. He cut through an alley where he saw Sykes, who he said began walking away after the two exchanged words.

"I aimed the gun and shot him the first time," Jackson said. "And I shot him the second time, trying to kill him."

During the hearing, the two siblings who saw the shooting sat behind their mother, Phaedra Singleton, and comforted her. Sykes' stepfather, Perry Singleton, said the eldest sibling, Drequan, is struggling with the guilt and grief of losing his brother.

It wasn't the first violent death in the family. Sykes' cousin, Terrell Sykes, 33, was killed in Chicago less than two years ago. That slaying remains unsolved.

Staff writer Kristian Hernandez contributed to this report. Abby Simons • 612-673-4921

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