Suspect in Lynchburg killing pleads guilty after jury deadlocks

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Published: Aug. 11, 2022 at 2:57 PM EDT
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LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - The suspect in a 2019 killing in Lynchburg has pleaded guilty, four months after a jury deadlocked during trial deliberations in his case.

Devon Bailey offered the plea August 8 to Voluntary Manslaughter in connection with the December 2019 killing of Darius Saunders, Jr. He was sentenced on that charge and a charge of Possession of a Firearm by a Violent Felon, but as he was 15 years old at the time of the killing, he has been committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice as a Serious Offender until he is 21 years old.

A review hearing for his serious offender status will be conducted in six months, with no date set, according to Lynchburg Commonwealth’s Attorney Bethany Harrison.

The other pending charge of Use of a Firearm During a Felony was dismissed.

At trial in March, a jury deadlocked after about 7.5 hours of deliberations. In the trial, Bailey took the stand and testified he went to Saunders’ home to buy marijuana, offering cash and a gun for the drugs. He said some of the marijuana wasn’t good, and the two argued and fought. He claims Saunders ended up on top of him as they fought over a revolver Bailey had with him.

He told the court he shot twice, once into his own arm and once into Saunders’ chest, saying on the stand, “it was gonna be me or him.”

During closing arguments, prosecutors said Bailey’s story doesn’t line up with evidence. They argued Bailey intended to rob Saunders of the drugs, not make an exchange. Prosecutors say Saunders fought back and that’s what led to his death, and that Bailey took some of his personal belongings as he left the scene.

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