A Richmond man was sentenced Tuesday to spend 12 years in prison for orchestrating a robbery that led to the death of a 22-year-old co-worker.
Christopher Pitts, 24, of the 600 block of North Laburnum Avenue, had earlier pleaded guilty to attempted robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery and use of a firearm during the commission of a felony. Based on state guidelines, he should have only faced up to four years.
But Henrico County Circuit Judge L.A. Harris said that amount of time was not sufficient in this case, tripling the recommended incarceration. He also suspended 11 years.
“I have to look at the result,” Harris said, “which in this case, was the death of an individual.”
Michael Raymond Bailey Jr. was shot and killed the night of July 20, 2014, during an attempted robbery of the McDonald’s in the 5100 block of Nine Mile Road. Pitts and his girlfriend, Jelesa Holman, who testified on his behalf Tuesday, worked at the McDonald’s at the time.
It wasn’t Pitts who pulled the trigger — he was armed with a BB gun — but accomplice Deonte Maurice Jenkins, 20, of Colonial Heights.
In December, Jenkins was sentenced to 43 years in prison for first-degree murder and the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
And it was Pitts who led Henrico County homicide detectives to Jenkins, who had been arrested in Dinwiddie County a week after Bailey’s murder. Jenkins used the same 9 mm pistol that was used to kill Bailey in a drive-by shooting at a birthday party in Dinwiddie, according to Henrico homicide Detective John Seay.
“We probably would have gotten to Deonte Jenkins eventually,” said Henrico County Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor. “But it could have been six, nine, 12 months. What could have happened in the meantime?”
Taylor said she didn’t make a recommendation to the court on sentencing because she was torn between the serious nature of the crime and its tragic outcome and Pitts’ cooperation and remorse.
The fact that Pitts worked at the fast-food restaurant, planned the robbery and brought a gun worked against him, Taylor said.
Then, she asked Holman, Pitts’ girlfriend, to elaborate on the couple’s financial hardships and struggles to maintain a home and support their two children. Holman said her 2-year-old son wasn’t biologically Pitts’, but that he acted like the boy’s father while supporting his own biological son through child support payments.
“Does that mean that the fault of Michael Bailey’s death lay solely on the shoulders of Deonte Jenkins?” Taylor said, shrugging her shoulders and leaving her question for the court to answer.
Several members of Bailey’s family, who took up a quarter of the courtroom gallery seating, shook their heads no.
Tammy Bolton, Bailey’s stepmother, read a letter to Pitts during the hearing. “You might not have been the one to shoot Michael, but your words killed him,” Bolton said. “Our hearts and our souls will always have a hole that you put there.”
Before Judge Harris handed down his verdict, Pitts apologized to the family, and to his own.
“I want to say I was wrong,” he said, reading from a statement. “I think to myself all the time what if that had been one of my sons. This is a crime that didn’t need to happen.”
Pitts’ attorney, Wade Kizer, the commonwealth’s attorney in Henrico before Taylor, distanced his client as much as he could from Jenkins, who has a long criminal record. Pitts had only minor prior traffic violations, Kizer said.
“Before, during and after, they are very different people,” he said. “Not only in their backgrounds but in there roles in the incident and their reaction after the fact.”
Harris, the judge, applauded Pitts’ “meaningful cooperation,” but said “the message has got to get out.”
Pitts received 10 years with 3 suspended on the conspiracy count; 10 years, suspending 8 for the attempted robbery; and the mandatory 3 years for the weapons charge.