One of the five people charged in September’s triple shooting at Mallside Forest apartment complex — what police later described as gang activity — pleaded guilty and learned his punishment on Monday.
As part of an agreement presented by the prosecution and the defense attorney, 15-year-old Isiah Keshawn Barbour, initially charged as a juvenile, pleaded guilty as an adult in Albemarle Circuit Court and received an eight-year active sentence.
“The court accepts the plea,” said Judge Cheryl Higgins.
The outcome becomes the first criminal resolution from the incident, which Albemarle County police described in December as gang-related. Mallside Forest lies near Putt Putt Place off Rio Road.
In court on Monday, Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Alicia Milligan said that shortly before nightfall on Sept. 22, gunfire erupted from a vehicle carrying five people. The shots, Milligan said, were directed at two brothers standing in front of Building 834 and struck not only the brothers but also hit a female friend of theirs. Milligan said that all three victims were seriously injured and hospitalized.
Milligan said investigators were able to link a gun seized during a search at Barbour’s home to one of the shell casings found at the apartment complex. She said that Barbour’s brother was also charged in the incident but did not refer to him by name.
The indictments allege that the shooting permanently injured the victims, who are described in court papers only by their initials: R.W., N.W. and C.H.
Albemarle police have named the adults arrested in the incident as Meleak Domorion Clark, 20, of Farmville; Devontae Markel Johnson, 18, of Albemarle County; and Jalonnie Antonio Henson, 20, of Charlottesville. Their charges include possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, shooting from a vehicle and aggravated malicious wounding. A fifth person, a juvenile, was also charged in the case.
The seriousness of the shooting and the threat to bystanders from the gunfire, which penetrated the building, were among the reasons Milligan gave for elevating Barbour’s case from juvenile court. Another, she said, was “prior history.”
Under questioning from the judge, Barbour conceded that at the time of the Mallside shooting he was on juvenile probation for a previous offense.
Dressed in a blue polo shirt, handcuffed and shackled, Barbour spoke barely above a whisper and would sometimes keep his eyes closed for several minutes as he twisted in his chair, a demeanor that seemed to trouble the judge.
“I am concerned,” said Higgins, “that you are under the impression that you feel that by pleading guilty that you will get home quicker.”
“I’m just trying to get everything to move on and leave all this in the past,” replied Barbour.
After two recesses to give the teen time to confer with his mother and his attorney, Stephanie Commander, Barbour pleaded guilty to two counts of malicious wounding and accepted a 15-year sentence on each, with 11 years of each sentence suspended. He also pleaded guilty to a count of firing from a vehicle and a count of firing into a dwelling. Each of the latter two charges brought him a five-year suspended sentence.
The judge said she would construe his pleas as “Alford” pleas, in which the evidence of his guilt would be accepted without him actually admitting culpability. As part of the plea deal, the court has retained jurisdiction over Barbour until he turns 21, and the prosecutor said she would oppose any petition for early release filed before Barbour turns 19.
The outcome marks Barbour as a “serious offender” in the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice, where he will serve the first part of his so-called blended sentence. He is slated to return to court in January 2025 for a review hearing.
The only relative of anyone connected to the case who attended the hearing on Monday was Barbour’s mother Tracy Shifflett.
“I hate all that’s happened,” Shifflett told The Daily Progress. “I just pray for all of us — and send my apologies to the victims.”
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