Mobile, Alabama: The tension was palpable as the family and friends of Tavaris Pettway (Tj) and Coriyon Kenny entered the courtroom on Monday, August 13, 2018. Coriyon was charged with murdering nineteen year old Tavaris Pettway on April 12, 2016, at the Tillman Park Apartments in Tillmans Corner. This senseless and unnecessary act ripped apart two families and stole a loving son, nephew, and friend from this world far too early.
Tavaris Pettway (victim) lived with his aunt Shondreda Sanders, her husband Coriyon Kenny (defendant), Shondreda and Coriyon’s two kids, his other aunt, her daughter, and his uncle Deion Curtis. The group lived together amicably for a few months before the incident occurred. Officers arrived at the crime scene earlier that day in response to a verbal dispute between the victim, Shondreda, and the defendant. Officers returned to the same location in response to a 911 call regarding a shooting around 1:00 AM. The victim was found in critical condition and transported to the University of South Alabama Hospital, where he eventually succumbed to a gun shot wound to the face.
Once jury selections were finalized, opening statements were made by the Assistant District Attorney Madison Davis and Defense Attorney Stewart Hanley. ADA Davis provided the jurors with an overview of the facts and explained to the jury that Tavaris was a hardworking young man who’s life was cut short because of the mindless unnecessary actions of the defendant. She also explained the elements of murder and that the burden of proving Kenny’s guilt rested entirely on the State’s shoulders.
The State’s first witness called to the stand was Shondreda. Shondreda stated that she and the defendant were in the kitchen of their home on April 12, when they began play arguing, leading the defendant to state he was going to “mush” her. Tavaris took offense to this comment which resulted in a confrontation between the three individuals. Shondreda wanted the victim to leave her house but Tavaris refused stating that he paid rent and should not be forced to leave. This domestic dispute resulted in Shondreda contacting the Mobile Police Department.
State Exhibit 1: 911 call made by Shondreda Sanders at the beginning of the day
According to Sanders, once the police arrived Tavaris provided a drivers license that displayed his current address as the apartment on Callhoun Road. He then informed police that he paid rent and they agreed that he could not lawfully be removed from the residence. Shondreda was unhappy about the outcome but the situation was not violent and no weapons were involved at this point.
The police departed, subsequently returning a few hours later due to a report from the victim stating that his aunt threatened to slash his tires. Once everything was calm again the police left.
State Exhibit 2: 911 call made by Travaris
In this recording it is evident that even though Tavaris and his aunt were having a disagreement he was still respectful and calm. Shondreda stated that she left to go to the store when the police arrived the second time. When she returned to the apartment Tavaris and law enforcement were no longer there.
Deion Curtis was another one of the State’s witnesses to take the stand. Mr. Curtis was the victim’s uncle but since they were extremely close in age they were more like brothers. He explained to the jury that he was at work earlier in the day and did not witness the initial confrontations. He did receive text messages informing him of the situation. Later on in the evening, Coriyon Kenny left the residence without saying where he was going. During that time frame Deion Curtis and Tavaris returned to the apartment.
According to Deion, later that evening, Kenny entered the apartment in an agitated state. The defendant was pacing back and forth and mumbling to himself the entire time. He provoked Tavaris by calling him names and presenting himself in an aggressive manner. Tavaris and Coriyon proceeded to get into another altercation which resulted in Coriyon throwing a punch and missing. The victim responded by hitting the defendant twice.
After these blows were dealt, the two men and Deion ended up in the back bedroom of the apartment. At this point the defendant drew a 9mm semiautomatic pistol from the waist band of his pants. The victim immediately stepped back. Deion tried to restrain Kenny from using the weapon but despite his efforts the defendant was still able to fire the weapon twice. One of those shots hit the victim in the side of the face. The defendant’s wife and his own young children were in the bedroom when the conflict occurred. Not only did the defendant shoot the victim, he also put the other individuals in the room at risk of being injured.
One of the most heart wrenching moments from the trial was when the State presented the 911 call the Deion Curtis made after realizing that his nephew had been shot.
State’s Exhibit 4: 911 recording of Deion Curtis reporting the shooting
In this recording it is evident that Deion was in disbelief that his nephew was sprawled in front of him bleeding out. He pleaded with the dispatcher to send help immediately. The anguish in his voice is real as he explained to the dispatcher that his nephew’s heart was still beating and he did not want it to stop.
Once the defendant shot the victim he immediately fled the scene. Shondreda and Deion were left to watch helplessly as Tavaris was taken to University of South Alabama Hospital.
Corporal Stephen Welch, of the Mobile Police Department, was one of the officers that responded to the crime scene in reference to a homicide. Once on scene, he was dispatched to the hospital where the victim was taken. It was there that he discovered that the victim was deceased due to a gun shot wound to the face. Corporal Kenneth Gillespie, the lead detective, interviewed multiple witnesses from the day of the incident. Their testimonies were consistent with the fact that a domestic dispute earlier in the day was the catalyst for the deadly events later on that evening. Many of the witnesses testified that the defendant did not own a gun. Shondreda even stated that guns were not allowed in the residence. This led investigators to believe that Kenny intentionally left the apartment to retrieve the firearm that was later used in the crime.
Forensic Scientist, Patricia Linely was sworn in as the State’s firearms expert analyst. Linely received an envelope containing the two expended cartridge cases found at the scene. She conducted microscopic analyses on these items and concluded that the two shell casings were released from the same firearm.
Assistant District Attorney Jo Beth Murphree compelled the jury to use three things: common sense, the law, and the evidence to find the defendant guilty. Judge Stout reminded the jury of the indictment which read “The State of Alabama, Mobile County, The Grand Jury of said County, that, before the finding of this indictment Coriyon Fanzaro Kenny whose name is to the Grand Jury otherwise unknown than as stated, did, with the intent to cause the death of Tavaris Pettway, cause the death of Tavaris Pettway, to-wit: by shooting him with a gun, in violation of 13A-6-2(a)(1) of the Code of Alabama, against the peace and dignity of the State of Alabama.” The judge also explained to them burden of proof, reasonable doubt, the charge of murder, and the lesser included offense of manslaughter.
The jury was then released to decided if they were convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Coriyon Kenny did indeed intentionally kill Tavaris Pettway. After hours of deliberation, the jury found Coriyon Fanzaro Kenny GUILTY of the lesser offense of Manslaughter. Sentencing will take place on October 11, 2018.