Tyree Sifford of Charlotte pleaded guilty Thursday to the shooting death of his cousin, Alquez Lee Thompson. A plea agreement with prosecutors will reduce his sentence from first-degree murder to voluntary manslaughter.
The exact circumstances of the shooting are hard to discern, Mecklenburg County Assistant District Attorney Tim Sielaff said. Prosecutors have had trouble getting witnesses to talk, but physical evidence and accounts from neighbors indicate Sifford fired the bullet that killed Thompson.
He will be sentenced July 9. The charge carries a penalty of 51 months to 74 months in prison.
Sifford was in a dispute with Thompson’s close friend, Jamarick Horton, Sielaff said. Horton had a gun at the shootout, which took place on the 1500 block of Whisnant Street just north of uptown early in the afternoon on March 31, 2014. It’s unclear whether Horton or Sifford fired first.
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Because the state would have struggled to prove Sifford didn’t fire in self-defense, prosecutors offered Sifford the plea deal, Sielaff said.
Thompson’s family is openly unhappy with the reduction in Sifford’s penalty. Thompson’s mother, grandmother and the mother of his child all addressed the court Thursday.
It’s not enough time in prison, they said. The mother of Thompson’s son said the boy still asks for his dad. She resents that Sifford will get to see his own child when he’s released while Thompson will never see his son again.
The women repeated that Thompson wasn’t armed.
Sifford spoke only briefly. He started to address Judge Bob Bell, who told him to speak to the victim’s family instead.
“I’m sorry for what happened,” Sifford said, twisting around in handcuffs to look at Thompson’s family.
More than a dozen people sat in the courtroom to support Sifford. As Sifford’s appearance concluded, several more deputies entered the courtroom and kept Thompson’s relatives away from Sifford’s group as they left the room.
Deputies continued to keep the families separate as they lingered in the hallway outside.