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2 plead guilty to 2023 Charlottesville convenience store killing

Two young men, including one too young to legally own a gun, have pleaded guilty to shooting and killing another young man in a year-ago ambush at a Charlottesville convenience store.

Orlando Wendell Allen Jr. was just 17 when he attacked and killed 20-year-old Justice Kilel at the Sunshine Supermarket on Cherry Avenue, according to his guilty plea rendered in late February. His co-defendant, 20-year-old Nasier Floyd McGhee, pleaded guilty last week in Charlottesville Circuit Court.

In court Feb. 22, prosecutor Nina-Alice Antony shared details of a crime that was, in her telling, both part of a feud and, on that day, a crime of opportunity. She said it was around 2 p.m. on March 4, 2023, when a car carrying four individuals passing the convenience store at 827 Cherry Ave. noticed that Kilel’s car was parked outside.

“They knew what his car looked like and diverted into the parking lot,” said Antony, who is the senior assistant commonwealth’s attorney for Charlottesville. “He was inside the store browsing the aisles and making, or attempting to make, routine purchases.”

Then living in Gordonsville, where he reportedly took an interest in gardening, Kilel had attended Fork Union Military Academy. He was the son of Kenyan parents who immigrated with him to the United States.

Antony said that at that time Kilel and his killers were on opposing sides of an ongoing dispute involving rival groups. While she never used the term “gangs,” which often carries connotations of hierarchy and ritual, Antony said these local rivals ranged in age from 13 to 25 and had already been involved in gun-based bloodshed.

While Kilel was standing at the checkout counter, Allen and McGhee walked in, Antony said.

“It does not seem like any words are spoken,” Antony told the court as she showed the judge surveillance video from the store.

While the images were too distant to be legible from the gallery, she described what she could see, particularly something on the defendant’s fist.

“You can see from the video,” said Antony, “he has brass knuckles on his hand.”

She said that what happened next happened fast. McGhee suddenly placed the unsuspecting Kilel into a “full nelson” restraint, also known as a double-shoulder lock, as Allen punched Kilel seven times, an action causing a gun to fall out of the victim’s waistband, she said.

“All three attempt to grab the firearm,” said Antony.

The gun ended up underneath Kilel, as he lay face down on the floor; and as both Allen and Kilel got a hand on it, Antony said, the gun discharged a bullet into Allen’s abdomen. Next, she said, Allen reached into his own waistband and withdrew his own gun and took aim at the prone Kilel.

“He fires four shots at point-blank range into his back,” Antony said.

Allen showed no emotion at the hearing as he listened to this from the defense table with his attorney, Jessica Phillips. Neither the defendant nor his lawyer made any statement when Judge Claude Worrell asked if they had any question or comment.

His guilty pleas came less than two weeks before the case was slated for trial. According to the court file, Phillips is Allen’s fourth attorney in this case, which appears bolstered by a trove of evidence that includes four videos of the scene and getaway, at least 37 videos in all including recorded statements and confessions. Additionally, a court document asserts that the police file contains 418 photos, 11 emergency call center recordings and five recovered firearms.

“The commonwealth asserts that neither the decedent, Justice Kilel, nor the co-defendant, Nasir McGhee, have any juvenile or adult criminal convictions,” reads one prosecution document.

Allen is notably absent from that list, and Allen said yes when the judge asked if he was on parole or probation — suggesting Allen does possess a juvenile record.

Confirmation of that can be expected at his sentencing hearing, at which Allen faces up to 43 years in prison on his two guilty pleas: a charge of second-degree murder and the use of a firearm.

Initially incarcerated at the Blue Ridge Juvenile Detention Center, Allen was transferred on his 18th birthday in July to the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail where he remains.

McGhee, whose first named is spelled Nasir in some court records and who was initially charged with second-degree murder, came to the same court earlier this month with his lawyer Mike Hallahan to sign a plea deal of his own.

Like Allen, the admitted triggerman, McGhee was originally charged with second-degree murder, but his agreement allows him to plead guilty to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years behind bars. On March 11, Judge H. Thomas Padrick approved McGhee’s plea, which dropped malicious wounding and firearms charges.

McGhee is slated to be sentenced June 6, while Allen’s sentencing hearing has been set for May 28.


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