Two of six defendants in a shootout that claimed the life of a young mother as she sought to shield her child from flying bullets were sentenced Thursday in Sacramento Superior Court.
Dominique Marcell Lott, 29, and Charles Barksdale, 32, pleaded guilty last month to manslaughter in the Dec. 14, 2010, shooting death of 30-year-old Monique Nelson outside the Fly Cuts & Styles barbershop on Stockton Boulevard in south Sacramento.
Superior Court Judge John P. Winn sentenced each man to 21 years in state prison. Each received the maximum sentence of 11 years for manslaughter.
Lott received an additional 10 years for having a gun during the offense and Barksdale was given an additional 10 years for admitting that the shootout took place for the benefit of his street gang.
As Lott and Barksdale awaited sentencing in a courtroom cell, Nelson's mother, brother and aunt described the loss their family has experienced as a result of a senseless dispute between rival groups.
Nelson had taken her 2-year-old son Jayden to the strip mall 11 days before Christmas to have his photo taken. She was strapping the youngster into his car seat when the shooting began and was struck by a stray bullet as she tried to shield him from the gunfire.
"Monique understood that a mother is never, ever to bury a child," said Nelson's mother, Deborah Nelson. "I live in a world of unfathomable loss."
Deborah Nelson said the family has lost custody of Jayden, who lives with his father in Texas. The youngster will turn 5 in June.
"While the defendants were free to choose their actions," she said, "they should not be free to choose the consequences."
Richard Nelson said he had lost his sister and his best friend, "all over some marijuana, some gold grill and some money."
The dispute that led to the shootout allegedly began with a robbery involving a gold "grill" – flashy, insertable teeth.
Judge Winn thanked the family members for their "very appropriate" comments. As he reviewed the probation reports for Lott and Barksdale, the words "senseless" and "nonsense" came to his mind as well, the judge said.
"It's just an utter tragedy for the family," Winn said.
Family members had asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence. Although Winn noted that manslaughter carries lesser penalties than a murder charge, Lott and Barksdale received the maximum sentence for manslaughter.
Based on the comments from Monique Nelson's family, he said, it appears that young Jayden has a strong system of support.
"I urge you to stay strong for the child," Winn said.
Commenting following the sentencing hearing, Monique Nelson's aunt Beatrice Bailey said, "I think justice has been served, in view of the limitations that we have."
The family's ordeal isn't over. A murder trial is still pending for the other four defendants: Lonnie Orlando Mitchell Jr., 26; Louis James Mitchell, 21; James Leo Carney III, 33; and Larry Dean Jones Jr., 31. Carney is accused of firing the shot, aimed at the Mitchells, that killed Nelson.
Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.