LAURINBURG — A Laurinburg man was sentenced to at least 16 years in prison on Monday after pleading guilty in Scotland County Superior Court to second-degree murder in the 2013 death of Byron Covington.
Kamel Stewart, 24, who last lived on Wagram Street, was charged with fatally shooting Covington a few months after the District Attorney’s office dismissed, on the grounds of self-defense, charges against him in the 2011 death of Christopher McLean.
Stewart’s attorney, Arthur Donadio, said the trauma from the 2011 incident led his client to take a firearm with him on Oct. 30, 2013 to the home of Nyesha Mitchell on Washington Street.
Earlier in the day, Stewart had sent an acquaintance to pick up his three-year-old son, but the acquaintance returned without the child, according to the account presented by the state on Monday. Stewart then went to pick up the child himself. An argument ensued between Stewart and Covington, who was involved with Mitchell at the time.
Though Stewart left the home with his child after no further incident, Stewart’s brother Calvin Stewart and mother Ann Stewart were involved in an argument with Mitchell outside the home, during which Calvin Stewart struck Mitchell in the mouth.
During the course of that argument, Kamel Stewart returned to the address with a firearm, shooting at the group approximately six times before fleeing.
Investigators found Covington dead of a shot to the upper back, along with several 9mm shell casings consistent with the bullet medical examiners found in Covington’s body.
Kamel Stewart turned himself in to authorities, but initially denied involvement until officers revealed that Covington had died, then stating that “he did not mean to kill anyone.” He claimed to have used a .32 caliber pistol, which he threw over a fence on Washington Street after the shooting. No weapon was ever recovered.
Following the incident, Kamel Stewart was charged with first-degree murder, but entered a guilty plea to second-degree murder on Monday, which was accepted by Judge Richard Brown.
Per the terms of the plea bargain, Brown sentenced him to 192 to 243 months in prison, with credit for time served since 2013.
“I’ve lived in this town my entire life and it is mind-boggling, for lack of a better term,” Brown said. “We’re losing entirely too many young people to senseless tragedies that should never occur.
“I don’t know what the answer is … until the mentality stops that guns are the answer to problems that should have been talked out.”
Donadio pointed out that, at the time of the shooting, Stewart had recently been released after spending eight months in jail on murder charges that were dismissed. On Aug. 27, 2011, McLean, his mother, and brother engaged in an armed child custody dispute at Stewart’s home in which McLean was killed and Stewart suffered four gunshot wounds.
“I think that incident in 2011 … instilled in him a fear and a need to go armed to defend himself,” said Donadio. “His remorse was and is genuine that he killed somebody.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.