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Spates brothers sentenced for murder
Racardious Spates, left, and Christopher Spates, right, await sentencing in the death of Thyanna Parsons Thursday. Both men were sentenced to life in prison. Christopher Spates' attorney, Henry Bevel, is pictured at the center.
GREG BROWN / Courier Staff Photographer

WATERLOO -- Calls for calm came Thursday as two Waterloo men were sent to prison for the rest of their lives in the shooting death of Thyanna Parsons.

Racardious "Carl" Spates, and his brother, Christopher Spates, were convicted of first-degree murder in the Oct. 10 shooting during an earlier trial.

Prosecutors said the two were part of a group that opened fire on a Harrison Street home in retaliation for a fight at a nearby nightclub.

Parsons, 23, who was serving food at a party in the house, was hit by single bullet and died.

Parsons' friend, Kim Sanders, read a poem penned shortly after the shooting.

She said Parsons died because of "nonsense and hatred," and she asked to "stop the gossip, hatred and fights."

Sanders said the slaying should prompt unity, understanding and real brotherhood and sisterhood.

The Spates brothers maintained their innocence during the hearing.

"I'm innocent. I didn't do this," Christopher Spates, 28, said.

"I didn't do this," Racardious, 22, said.

Judge Jon Fister imposed the only punishment under Iowa law for first-degree murder -- life in prison without parole. He also ordered he two to pay $150,000 each in restitution to Parsons' estate.

Black Hawk County Attorney Thomas Ferguson, who prosecuted the case, said Parsons' killing was a tragedy that could have been stopped at a number of points along the way.

"This was an undeserved death," said attorney Henry Bevel, who defended Christopher Spates.

He said people need to quit marginalizing certain parts of town and quit writing off children who are at risk. Of the six defendants in the shooting only one had a high school diploma, Bevel said.

This was a "failure on the part of us all," Bevel said.

He also said Parsons was at a party that included the unlicensed sale of alcohol. And he said police knew about the party.

Witnesses said they saw Racardious Spates with a rifle that fired the same type of bullet that killed Parsons immediately before and after the shooting. A witness also placed Christopher Spates in the area with a shotgun.

Four others were charged with murder in the shooting.

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Two of them, Dorondis Cooper and Damean Spates, entered agreements with the state to plead to lesser charges and testified against Christopher and Racardious Spates.

Another, Joseph Washington, is working on a plea agreement where he will likely testify against the remaining defendant, his brother, Shawn Washington.

Thursday's sentencing came on the heels of three hours of arguments as attorneys for Christopher and Racardious Spates tried to win new trials for their clients.

Among other issues, Thomas Frerichs, who represented Racardious, took issue with a laptop computer from the County Attorney's Office that was used to play video clips of a police interview of a witness during jury deliberations.

Frerichs said the defense was never told about prosecutors loaning the computer to the jury and questioned what other information jurors may have accessed.

"We don't know what was on that computer," Frerichs said.

Prosecutor Joel Dalrymple said the computer wasn't the one used to power multimedia presentations delivered during the trial. He said it contained a word processing program that may have included a dictionary.

The state also submitted an affidavit from the foreman of the jury who said jurors only used the computer to view the videos, which were on a CD. The video itself had been introduced into evidence during the trial.

Fister turned down the requests for new trials, but the Spates brothers have the option of taking their cases to the Iowa Court of Appeals.

Contact Jeff Reinitz at (319) 291-1578 or jeff.reinitz@wcfcourier.com.

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