Teenage killer sentenced

Girl gets 25-year term for fatal stabbing of light rail passenger

December 07, 2007|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,Sun reporter

A teenage girl was sentenced yesterday to life in prison with all but 25 years suspended for chasing down and fatally stabbing another girl whose cell phone she tried to steal after they left a light rail train last year in Baltimore.

Lataye S. King, now 17, entered an Alford plea on charges of first-degree murder and second-degree assault in the attack on Nicole "Nikki" Edmonds, who was returning home from work at a fast-food restaurant when she was killed.

In an Alford plea, the accused doesn't formally admit guilt but concedes that the state has enough evidence for a conviction.

The Circuit Court judge said King can be considered for the Patuxent Institution for psychiatric care.

Kendrick McCain, who was 15 when the stabbing occurred and had been charged with first-degree murder, accepted a deal and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery and second-degree assault. He is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 4.

Speaking publicly for the first time about his anguish, Nikki's father, Wayne Edmonds, told Judge Martin P. Welch that he remembers taking in Nikki as a 2-year-old foster child. He said he watched her grow into a young lady who worked hard, wanted to go to college and work with children, and loved to participate in church activities.

To the relatives of King, some of whom were sitting in court yesterday, Edmonds said, "I don't have any hard feelings to [your] family, because two families lose today."

Edmonds, pastor of an East Baltimore church, said he still misses his daughter, who used to play practical jokes and try to cheer him up until he laughed. "I'll miss that. ... there's nobody in my life who fulfills that right now," he said.

Dispute over phone

The teenagers' paths crossed on a light rail train as it headed north through Baltimore on Nov. 7 of last year. Police said Nicole, wearing her Wendy's uniform from her shift at the Linthicum restaurant, was using her cell phone and King wanted it.

King and McCain followed Nicole and her brother, Marcus, off the train at the North Avenue stop. They pulled the brother, Marcus Edmonds, down to the ground by his jacket. They then chased his sister, threw her to the ground and - according to another witness - King "pounced on her," Assistant State's Attorney Paul O'Connor said.

"It was Lataye King who stabbed Nicole Edmonds, not once, but twice," O'Connor said. Both wounds were to the chest. The pair then walked away, police said, with King eating a sandwich she had taken from the victim's purse.

The killing of Edmonds stood out in a city struggling with violence among juveniles. King and McCain were arrested about two weeks after the killing, were charged as adults and were denied bail. They have been jailed at the city Detention Center since.

At yesterday's sentencing hearing, Welch permitted King to talk privately to her grandmother at the front of the courtroom for a few minutes, a rare occurrence. They were not allowed to touch.

When Welch formally announced the life sentence, King's grandmother and another relative gasped "Good Lord!" in the court seats and broke down in tears.

Initially, police detectives thought four people had been involved in the assault, but witnesses provided police with information about King and McCain.

McCain also made incriminating statements about King's actions that night, prosecutors said.

Home environments

King and McCain came from challenging home environments. King, who wore a black-and-white top and gray slacks yesterday, resembled a typical high school student but had finished only the seventh grade and had been staying at homes of relatives and friends across Baltimore before the stabbing.

McCain, a slender, 6-foot tall boy, had been in and out of special education classes, skipped school frequently and was living with an aunt in a North Baltimore neighborhood infested with gang activity.

Hours before the teenagers' encounter on the light rail train, McCain and King were returning from a club in South Baltimore called Paradox. Not able to get in, they boarded the light rail to head home. That was when they encountered Nicole and Marcus.

The victim's parents had pulled Nicole out of Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore the previous year because they feared for her safety. They opted to home school the girl, who had her sights set on attending college.

"I just wanted to let you know," Wayne Edmonds told the judge yesterday, "that this young lady was an extraordinary young lady."

gus.sentementes@baltsun.com

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