Sentencing for Kenyan carjacker in Des Moines Iowa delayed


A sentencing hearing for a Des Moines teen who participated in a carjacking that left a man with brain damage was continued this morning, partly due to new evidence about his behavior in jail.

Leshaun Murray, 17, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree robbery in April. Murray is one of three teens who carjacked Des Moines man , a Kenyan immigrant who was just a block from his home when the teens attacked him in February 2013.

Murray used a handgun to hit Wasike in the back of his head, causing brain damage that left him unable to speak, according to witness testimony during a trial for one of the teens. Wasike is currently being treated at a facility in Tulsa, Okla. and his progress is going slower than expected, said his wife, Joan Namachemo.

Judge Karen Romano continued the sentencing hearing until next week, partly because of new evidence prosecutors hope to show about phone calls Murray made from the Marshall County Jail, as well as jail disciplinary reports. In one of the phone calls, Murray speaks with a family member of Terrance Cheeks, who was also involved in the attack, according to court documents.

Murray’s defense attorney said she had not been given enough time to review the phone calls ahead of the hearing. Prosecutors also intend to bring an expert witness to testify about teenage brain development, assistant county attorney Frank Severino said.

Namachemo was in the courtroom this morning sitting alongside her mother-in-law. Namachemo said that while Murray’s sentencing has been delayed twice before, she wants to ensure that the eventual sentence cannot be overturned.

“It’s taking a very, very long time but I want it to be done the right way,” she said.

Murray’s co-conspirators, Cheeks, 17, and Kenneth Barry, 18, were both sentenced to serve prison sentences earlier this year. At Cheeks’ trial, Barry testified that it was his handgun the three teens used in the carjacking and that Murray struck Wasike once in the back of the head as he fled his car.

In a letter written ahead of Murray’s sentencing, his mother, Alisha White, wrote that her son should be given a chance at rehabilitation outside of prison. White apologized for the damage Murray caused Wasike.

“My son, Leshaun Murray, is a good kid and may not have made the best choices but he needs to be able to have a chance in life to make things right,” she wrote. “I have not always been the best support system to him and I feel that could have been part of his mental anguish.”

In another letter, Murray’s grandfather, a Kansas City reverend, wrote that his grandson could have a promising career in football, basketball and track if he’s not sentenced to prison. Prosecutors and a juvenile court officer, however, have saidMurray was a dedicated gang member from a young age.

Severino this morning said he intends to show a video of a September 2012 incident that ended with Murray being charged with disorderly conduct at next week’s sentencing hearing. A juvenile court officer has said Murray yelled gang slurs on a bus.

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