The man charged in the February shooting death of 24-year-old UTC student Mohammad Sharifi will go to trial next spring.
Chattanooga police say Sharifi was trying to sell his Xbox One gaming system to D'Marcus White, 21, when White shot and killed him in the parking lot of a Hixson Pike apartment complex at 12:18 p.m. on Feb. 19.
White was arrested the same day, shortly after police say he shared a local news article about the attack on Facebook with a series of laughing emojis above it. He had been on probation for a 2018 assault case.
Sharifi was supposed to get married two weeks later. But instead, the day after they were to be wed, his fiancee found herself walking up a rain-saturated hill to her would-be husband's grave at Harpeth Hills Memory Gardens in the outskirts of Nashville.
Without a cloud in sight and surrounded by their families, Sara Baluch knelt by his grave and began to weep.
"We were supposed to be together," she cried. "I'm so sorry, Mohammad."
"I'm so sorry."
UTC student deathView 7 Photos
Later that week, White's charges were sent to a grand jury, which later indicted him on first-degree felony murder and especially aggravated robbery charges.
On Tuesday, Baluch, her family and Sharifi's family were in the courtroom as White, shackled and in a red jumpsuit, was brought before Criminal Court Judge Tom Greenholtz.
White's defense attorneys and prosecutors agreed to a May 5 trial date. Greenholtz explained the next steps.
"Mr. White, so here's what we've done, if it's OK with you, we've set your case to begin trial by jury on May 5, 2020. That's on a Tuesday. We are going to be starting as close as we can to 9 o'clock," Greenholtz said.
A pretrial hearing will be held on March 24.
"The purpose of that March 24th date is to see if there are any issues that may affect that trial," Greenholtz said. "So, typically, those are evidence issues. So it could be issues about evidence that the jury should hear, evidence that the jury shouldn't hear. There may be other issues, too, that we would address at that time. The whole purpose is to make sure we've got all of our issues resolved before we call the jury."
If White changes his mind and decides to take a plea deal, he would have to do so before April 24.
He's being held at the Hamilton County Jail.
Sharifi would have turned 25 on Oct. 1.
"Like last year, I'd be screaming happy birthday as I gave you a million kisses," Baluch wrote in a Facebook post. "I'd be filling your room with balloons and presents, watching your face light up as soon as you walked in. I'd be giving you the world because it's what you always deserved. I wish more than anything that I could give you one more happy birthday, that I could give you the years from my life. You still had so many things you wanted to do, so many things you wanted to achieve. You still had so much life left in you. I promise, I'm trying so hard every day for the both of us. The only thing that keeps me going is knowing that your love and your life continue in my heart."
When she learned Sharifi had been killed, "it was like the world was ripped from underneath me," Baluch previously told the Times Free Press.
"It felt like I was falling and it wasn't stopping," she said. "I fainted. When I woke up, I was like, 'No. This is a dream. We were getting married in two weeks. I just saw him last night. I just saw him.'"
She still struggles to come to terms with the loss of her fiancé, she said Tuesday, though she couldn't share much due to the impending trial.
"His life, his love, and his loss have made me into who I am," she wrote in a Sept. 7 Facebook post. "Telling me to forget and move on is disrespectful to his memory, his life, and our love I will never move on, but I will move forward with his memory, with his soul, and with his love. When you look at me, I want you to see his life and soul shine through I'd rather hurt and carry this pain than to never have met my other half and experience a love so rare, so indescribable."