Two homicide cases in Hamilton County recently concluded with guilty pleas from the defendants.
Courtney Birt, 24, and Deuntray Kellogg, 21, both pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, respectively, in the separate homicides of 16-year-old Lamunta Williams in 2013 and 51-year-old shop owner Wonsik No in 2015.
Prosecutors said witnesses identified Birt as shooting Williams in an abandoned house on Carr Street. Birt's initial attorney, John Allen Brooks, argued that Birt wasn't mentally competent to assist in his trial preparation, pointing to a previous forensic evaluation that found Birt had an IQ of 59 and he didn't know how old he would be in five years.
But prosecutors said Birt was purposely lying, or malingering, to get a lower punishment, and arguments over Birt's competency carried on for years before he agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder on Aug. 1, 2018.
Shortly after he agreed to serve 20 years in prison, Birt wrote Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Don Poole a letter saying he didn't commit the crime and felt a lot of pressure to plead guilty. In the letter, Birt said he and a girlfriend were having sex in a vacant apartment in the Emma Wheeler homes when he received a call that Williams had been killed and people were looking for him. Birt conceded that Williams and his girlfriend had recently argued but maintained he was innocent.
In late January, Judge Poole dismissed the letter. If he wants, Birt can file for post-conviction relief any time before Aug. 1.
Kellogg, meanwhile, was charged with shooting and killing 51-year-old No inside the business owner's Fourth Avenue shop on Sept. 7, 2015. Store video footage captured the incident, and Kellogg, though a minor at the time, was transferred to Criminal Court and prosecuted as an adult.
Kellogg also faced gun, assault and attempted murder charges from other incidents, but those cases were dismissed when he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the No homicide on Jan. 28. He will serve 100 percent of his 25-year sentence and received credit for the roughly three and a half years he spent in custody pretrial.
Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.