Two men accused in the shooting death of 15-year-old Brandon Wingo were sentenced to prison Friday morning.
A New Castle County Superior Court judge sentenced Diamonte Taylor to life in prison after he was convicted of pulling the trigger in killing Wingo in May 2016.
Zaahir Smith was initially charged with murder as well, but had that charge dropped. He pleaded to guilty to lesser charges tied to prosecutors implicating him in three separate robberies as well as the planning of Wingo's killing. He was sentenced to 21 years in prison.
The sentences conclude the case of one of the most prominent murders in Wilmington's recent history. Wingo, a student at Howard High School of Technology, was shot in the head as he walked from school along Clifford Brown Walk on a sunny afternoon.
Wingo's age and the brazen nature of the daylight shooting shocked the city. On Friday, his aunt said his family will never be the same. She remembered him as an excellent basketball player and a child with a bright future.
"He will never be able to pursue his dreams," she said.
Prosecutors said his death was part of a feud between rival gangs of young people in Wilmington, a war prosecutors have also said was the motive in several shootings and robberies in the city and was fueled by social media taunts and bragging.
Both Taylor and Smith were also charged as members of the Shoot to Kill Gang and prosecutors said the motive for the killing was "scoring" on their rival Only My Brothers gang.
"This was a game to him and his fellow STK members," said Deputy Attorney General Matthew Frawley on Friday.
Taylor was tried by a jury in April 2018 and his first-degree murder conviction carried a mandatory life sentence. He did not address the court Friday. Most of the evidence pointing to Taylor as the gunman came from a fellow Shoot To Kill gang member.
Kevon Harris-Dickerson, who admitted to being a Shoot to Kill member, told the jury that Taylor and Smith discussed shooting Wingo or any other member of their rival Only My Brothers gang after they said Wingo disrespected a dead friend in a Facebook post.
Harris-Dickerson was indicted on charges of first-degree murder, gang participation and a number of other crimes in 2016. But he took a plea, agreed to cooperate with police and was sentenced to eight years in prison.
Harris-Dickerson told the jury that Taylor was in the passenger seat as he drove onto Clifford Brown Walk and spotted Wingo. He said Taylor wanted to shoot from the car, but instead got out carrying a 9 mm handgun and wearing a black coat.
A surveillance camera nearby caught an image of a figure wearing a black coat walking from the scene of the shooting. Harris-Dickerson identified the person as Taylor.
Wingo's aunt stressed the intentional nature of the killing.
"They made a plan," she said. "He ran Brandon around that car and murdered him in the street."
Harris-Dickerson told the jury that Taylor met him back at the home of a woman he was dating nearby before he, Taylor and Smith decided to go back by Clifford Brown Walk.
He said Taylor laughed when they drove by Wingo's body on the pavement.
The men fled to North Carolina after the killing.
Social media posts where Taylor brandished the murder weapon, dubbing it the "Wingo dropper" and other posts showing the men bragging and advocating gang violence were also a feature of Taylor's 2018 trial.
On Friday, Frawley said the men would post news articles about the killing and other veiled insults as a way of bragging.
During Taylor's trial, prosecutors showed the jury a Facebook post from after the murder that they said Smith posted. It suggested Wingo should have left his book bag at school so "he would have been lighter on his feet."
Smith was not tried for carrying out Wingo's murder, but Deputy Attorney General Mark Denney said on Friday that Smith was part of planning the killing and showing "pride and jubilation" after.
Denney told the court that investigators learned what Smith had said he was going to do if he beat the case and was released from prison.
"He was going to dig up Brandon Wingo's grave and if he still had flesh on him, he was going to burn it," Denney told the court.
The killing was part of a spree of violence prosecutors said Taylor and Smith were involved in during that summer.
Denney said Smith robbed a person with the same weapon used to kill Wingo. When the victim didn't give Smith money quickly enough, Denney said Smith shot the young man.
Prosecutors asked that he be sentenced to 25 years, which Denney described as a "gift."
Smith told the court he was sorry and asked for "another chance." Michael Heyden, Smith's attorney, asked for leniency.
He said Smith grew up home-schooled by a "drug addict" mother with a violent father who was in and out of prison. As a boy, Smith had to keep his belongings in a garbage bag. When his parents died, he lived in abandoned houses and cars.
"It is hard to believe how he was raised," Heyden said.
In the absence of family, the gang became family, Judge Vivian Medinilla observed, as she sentenced him to 21 years in prison.
Harris-Dickerson told the jury the feud between STK and OMB began with the January 2015 death of one of their 15-year-old friends in Wilmington's Hilltop neighborhood.
That murder remains unsolved and new groups have sprung up after dozens were arrested and charged with gang participation as part of STK and OMB.
One of Smith's nicknames on the street and social media was "Grimy Savage." Denney said there is now an offshoot of STK known as the "Grimey Savages" while the former gang's rivals now take the moniker MGS.
"The impact of this is forever," Denney said.
Contact Xerxes Wilson at (302) 324-2787 or email@example.com. Follow @Ber_Xerxes on Twitter.
Have a court or data story idea? Contact Nick Perez at (302) 324-2856, firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @nickdnperez.