A Kansas City man has been charged with murder in the May 31 killing of 3-year-old Amorian S.L. Hale.
SirTerry L. Stevenson, 22, was in the Jackson County jail Thursday, accused of involvement in a series of retaliation shootings that led to Amorian’s death and left the city mourning and searching for answers.
Prosecutors charged Stevenson in June with murder, unlawful use of a weapon and two counts of armed criminal action, but the charges were sealed until Thursday.
Amorian was killed about 10 a.m. on a Sunday when a drive-by shooter sprayed bullets into his home in the 6700 block of Walrond Avenue. The toddler was asleep in a first-floor bedroom in the rear of the yellow, two-story corner house. Three other children and the boy’s parents also were inside the home.
The boy’s grandfather, Eric McKinney, said Thursday night that he was relieved criminal charges had been filed in the “senseless” shooting.
Police Chief Darryl Forté said the investigation continued, and more arrests could come.
“I was confident the case would be solved with excellent investigative techniques and with community involvement,” Forté said.
For weeks, the killing baffled and angered the city. As police tried to solve the case, they made connections with past shootings, searched for evidence on social media and employed an undercover federal agent to buy what they said was the murder weapon.
Stevenson, when questioned in June, identified another person as the shooter, according to court records.
Stevenson told investigators that he drove the gold 1998 Buick that was the source of more than a dozen shots that peppered the Hale home, according to court documents.
He also allegedly told investigators that the shooting was in retaliation for the Jan. 30 killing of another man in Grandview. Stevenson was in a vehicle with D’Shawn Marchbanks when Marchbanks was shot and killed.
Marchbanks, 23, had spent time in Missouri prisons for burglary and weapons charges, and had survived being shot once before during a failed burglary.
The night Marchbanks was killed, according to investigators, Stevenson posted a comment to Facebook under the username “S Dot Hoe” that read: “I’m a (expletive) killing everything watch.”
“I’m shutting down I don’t like nobody somebody family kids uncle gone pay for that tonight,” the comment said.
Stevenson, according to court records, told investigators that the drive-by shooting that killed Amorian was in retaliation for Marchbanks’ death. He said he was led to the Hale home by another man.
That third man, who was also closely linked to Marchbanks, allegedly had overheard someone confess to killing Marchbanks after a dispute over a female, according to investigators.
Weeks later, the night before Amorian was killed, the third man visited the Hale home. The man spent the night there as a guest, visiting with at least eight other people in the house, including the toddler.
In the morning, police found, the man exchanged a series of calls with Stevenson just before and after the shooting.
“We need to change our #s,” one of the later messages read.
Two days after the shooting, police found Stevenson driving his gold Buick and arrested him after a chase. During the arrest, they recovered his phone, which would be the source of much of the evidence later described in court documents.
Investigators said they traced Stevenson’s cellphone to the time and place of the shooting that killed Amorian. Witnesses reported seeing a similar gold car at the scene of the crime.
Investigators also say they have the murder weapon, a Romarm SKS semi-automatic rifle bought by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in an undercover operation. Police had identified the weapon based on photos from Stevenson’s phone, which appeared to be taken in the back of his car.
Stevenson was being held on $500,000 bond. He is scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 24.
McKinney, Amorian’s grandfather, said he remained only cautiously optimistic about seeing justice.
“I don’t know how the justice is going to play out or what is going to happen,” he said. “It won’t bring my grandson back; it just won’t.
“From what I understand, he made a statement that somebody had to die. I am sorry that he felt like that. I don’t know why he had to target a house with kids in it. But when a person says they don’t care, I guess they really don’t care.”
Mayor Sly James called the level of violence in the case “ridiculous.”
“The concept of these drive-by shootings by young people shooting into houses and killing people is something that we have to stop and wipe out of neighborhoods,” he said.
“One of the things that always bothers me about these things is the ripple effect that nobody sees. So this young boy is dead, his mother and father are devastated; their family is devastated but the person who has been charged, his family is now going to have to live with all of this as well.
“There is no upside to this level and type of violence in the city.”