St. George — The teenager accused of killing a pizza deliveryman last year cut his trial short Thursday when he pleaded guilty to murder.
Stephawn Brown, 19, accused of shooting 20-year-old Maraleius Birdsong in the head outside the Appian Way Apartments in North Charleston, was on trial for the Domino’s Pizza deliveryman’s murder this week in Dorchester County Circuit Court.
Thursday morning, tensions were high inside the courtroom as Brown was escorted to the judge’s chambers with attorneys. Testimony was supposed to be resuming.
Instead, after about an hour, prosecutors reemerged and took Birdsong’s family members, including his mother, Teresa Gardner, to a conference room. Minutes went by before Birdsong’s family re-entered the courtroom and embraced.
Brown then stood before Circuit Judge Ed Dickson and pleaded guilty to murder and armed robbery, ending the trial that began Tuesday. His co-defendant, 18-year-old Jontae Davis, had pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and armed robbery the day the trial started.
Davis accepted a plea deal that sentenced him to prison for 20 years. In exchange, he testified against Brown.
Following Brown’s plea, his attorney, Mark Leiendecker, a public defender, asked that his client’s sentencing be deferred to today so that family members, who are expected to speak in support of him, could be present.
While prosecutors did not make a deal with Brown regarding the amount of time he’d serve, Dickson said in court he would consider his sentence between a range of 45-50 years.
Brown faced the possibility of life in prison, if a jury would have convicted him. He said very little during his plea while answering the judge’s questions, although he may address the court this morning during his sentencing.
Brown and Davis planned to rob a pizza deliveryman on March 9. Brown ordered food from the Domino’s Pizza on Dorchester Road in the Coosaw Creek neighborhood. Birdsong happened to be the delivery driver assigned to the order. Birdsong knocked on the door of the apartment listed on the order, but the woman living there said she hadn’t ordered any food. After trying another apartment and still not finding the ordering party, Birdsong walked back to his car. That’s when he was approached by Brown and Davis, according to prosecutors. Brown pointed a 9 mm gun at Birdsong. That gun was later recovered by police with Brown’s DNA on it, prosecutors said. Brown demanded the food, which Birdsong handed over, Davis said when he testified earlier this week. Brown also asked for Birdsong’s cell phone, but he had left it in the car, 1st Circuit Assistant Solicitor Russell Hilton said in court. Davis told the jury earlier this week that Brown became upset when Birdsong didn’t turn over a cell phone. When Birdsong turned around to run away, Brown shot him in the back of the head and ran off with the food, some of which was later found in his apartment, Hilton said. Gardner, prosecutors, and defense attorneys did not want to comment on Brown’s plea or the case until after his sentencing today.
Reach Natalie Caula at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.