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Easter slaying nets 85-year term

February 2, 2019

Tyrion McNair shot Javon Burnett 13 times outside an apartment complex on Easter morning.

The 26-year-old’s body was found facedown about 10 a.m. April 1 between two buildings at The Summit at Ridgewood Apartments near Memorial Coliseum. He was there to pick up a car so he could join his mother at church.

An Allen County judge Friday ordered McNair, 25, to spend 85 years in prison : more than six years behind bars for each bullet that struck Burnett.

“Mr. McNair, you are among the worst offenders,” Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull said before handing down the sentence, the maximum allowed under state law.

Jurors convicted McNair on Jan. 10 of murder in the slaying and also returned a guilty verdict on a sentencing enhancement for using a gun to commit the crime. The murder conviction drew a 65-year sentence, and the enhancement added 20 years. The sentences will be served back to back.

“I am still in disbelief,” Burnett’s mother, Cynthia Gardner, said in court Friday. “A day doesn’t go by without thinking about him. I never imagined a pain so deep as losing a child.

“I don’t forgive your wrongdoing, but I have to forgive (you) to move on with my life.”

It was never made clear what led to the killing, though a man with McNair at the time : Joshua Smiley, 21 : said he thought they were at the apartment complex to buy marijuana.

McNair didn’t offer any clues, and he didn’t testify at trial. He has maintained his innocence and said so again Friday, complaining about evidence in the case and saying he wasn’t happy with his lawyer, Ryan Gardner.

He plans to appeal, McNair said.

The case hinged on testimony from Smiley, who was initially charged with murder but pleaded guilty as part of a plea agreement to felony assisting a criminal. He said McNair had a gun and tossed bullets from the weapon out the window as they drove away from the crime scene in a rented silver car. Smiley was sentenced last month to five years in prison, with two years suspended.

Several other witnesses testified they saw someone leave a gray or silver car in the parking lot of the complex and go to the side of the building, where Burnett was killed. They said they heard shots, and the same person ran back to the car before it sped away.

Gardner argued at trial no one saw McNair shoot Burnett, and none of the residents at the complex could identify McNair as the shooter.

Gardner pushed for a shorter sentence in court Friday, telling Gull the state’s criminal justice system is based on rehabilitation. Even a minimum sentence : 45 years for murder : would ensure McNair is middle-aged when he’s released, he said.

The judge, calling the crime “completely senseless,” disagreed.

McNair, shackled, handcuffed and wearing an orange jumpsuit quite different than the white shirt, blue vest and loose tie he wore throughout the three-day trial, did not react as the verdict was read.

mleblanc@jg.net

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