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Man sentenced to 26 years in prison in 2016 drive by killing




By Tyler Stocks
Staff Writer

Thursday, October 10, 2019

A 26-year-old man charged with killing a woman in a 2016 drive-by shooting pled guilty to second degree murder on Wednesday morning in Pitt County Superior Court.

The plea took place during the third day of the murder trial of Kenquonis Niqua McKenzie, who was accused of shooting Karen Speight on Dec. 30, 2016, at an apartment on Concord Drive.

McKenzie was sentenced to between 21 and 26 years in prison by Judge Quentin Sumner.

Prosecutors said on Tuesday that McKenzie shot 58-year-old Speight shortly after 3 p.m. as she was watching TV with her daughter in an apartment at 122 Concord Drive.

Octavius Yelverton, a co-defendant in the case who drove McKenzie to Concord Drive, testified on Tuesday that McKenzie got out of his black Honda CRV and began shooting at some boys on the upstairs balcony.

Speight was hit by a stray bullet fired from McKenzie's illegally acquired 9 mm handgun.

Speight later died at Vidant Medical Center. According to prosecutor Anthony Futrell, the autopsy report showed she died from a gunshot wound to the head.

Futrell said on Wednesday that the bullet went through the front door of Speight's home.

Yelverton also testified that McKenzie took him hostage at gunpoint after he met with him to buy drugs at an apartment on Landmark Street prior to the shooting.

McKenzie's attorney Ernest Conner disputed Yelverton's account and brought up Yelverton's reputation of being a drug dealer who used and sold marijuana.

Pitt County District Attorney Faris Dixon said on Wednesday afternoon that his office still is trying to decide whether or not Yelverton will be tried as an accessory to first-degree murder. Futrell will handle the case to avoid a conflict of interest, as Dixon previously represented Yelverton.

Prior to sentencing, Speight's youngest daughter expressed how losing her mother has forever changed her life.

"I haven't been the same," Sedra Daniels said. "I have nightmares and I never got to say goodbye.

"I forgive but I never forget," Daniels said to McKenzie.

McKenzie apologized to the family but asked not to be judged by his actions on the street.

"I'm a great guy," McKenzie said. "I was judged by who I was in the streets. I truly apologize.

"You don't know me; don't judge me," McKenzie told the family.

McKenzie still has a murder case pending, as he is one of three co-defendants in a 2014 homicide believed to be the result of a gang-related dispute.

The victim in that case, 30-year-old Travis Lee Foreman, was shot multiple times on Nov. 24, 2014, in his apartment on Ridge Place. Detectives believe the incident stemmed from a gang-related dispute. Police said Foreman was member of the Crips gang.

McKenzie is charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy in that case.

His next scheduled court appearance in that case is Dec. 5 at the Pitt County Detention Center.

McKenzie also has drug charges pending from a 2015 case and is expected in court on those charges on Jan. 1.