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Michigan man pleads guilty in 2017 shooting

January 19, 2019

HUNTINGTON - A Michigan man pleaded guilty Friday for his role in a 2017 shooting that killed one man and injured another in Huntington.

Kelly Lee “Shanks” Powell Jr., 24, of Pontiac, Michigan, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of 28-year-old Brandon Lee Taylor at a house in the 2700 block of 9th Avenue on Jan. 24, 2017.

Powell entered his plea before Cabell County Circuit Court Judge Chris Chiles, who sentenced him to 40 years in prison with credit for time already served at Western Regional Jail.

Chiles ordered probation officers to perform a pre-sentence investigation report into Powell’s past criminal and personal history. He then set a March 1 hearing to hear arguments to possibly reconsider Powell’s sentence.

Powell had originally faced charges of first-degree murder and malicious wounding in the shooting that also injured 24-year-old Royaire Elterro Deray Churchill, who survived being shot in the arm and head. Powell had a trial set for April 2018, which was delayed while waiting for DNA evidence to return from the West Virginia State Police Forensic Laboratory.

Shortly after the January 2017 shooting, detectives visited Churchill in the hospital, where he identified Powell from two mugshot lineups. However, Powell was not arrested until July 7 in Battle Creek, Michigan, by U.S. Marshals. He was extradited to West Virginia later that month.

At a preliminary hearing, Churchill testified he had been visiting Taylor, an old friend from Michigan, in Huntington for about a week before the shooting occurred. Powell came to the home on Jan. 23, 2017, and the trio spent the day smoking marijuana, playing video games and listening to music. There was no indication there was any animosity between the two, Churchill had testified. He and Powell sat on the same couch and Taylor sat on a seat nearby, Churchill said.

Before the next morning, Churchill said he was nearly asleep on the couch when he felt Powell stand up and heard him go into the kitchen.

Powell returned, he said, shooting him twice - one bullet hitting him in the arm and another grazing his head - before turning to Taylor, also shooting him twice, in the chest and head. Powell then went into the kitchen where he grabbed a bag of his belongings and left, Churchill said.

Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Reporter Courtney Hessler contributed to this report.

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