At 11, Terrence Whitmire committed his first misdemeanor, a simple assault. It was dismissed after he completed court-ordered community service.
At 15, police found five guns in Whitmire’s room after he lied about a friend being shot in a drive-by. The friend had shot himself, Whitmire later told police. No charges were filed, court records show.
A year later, Whitmire and several other boys broke into a home and stole nine guns. He was charged with a felony for the first time.
The Henrico County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court took the matter under advisement, meaning that the court had found evidence sufficient to convict him but would reduce or dismiss the charges, as had happened before, if he fulfilled a long list of requirements. Among them, according to court records, were enrollment in several programs for juvenile offenders, more community service and three papers about career and college options. He was placed on supervised probation and house arrest while he served 30 days of detention on the weekends.
A few months later, he ran away, earning his first convictions for probation and curfew violations, falsely identifying himself to police and possession of marijuana.
Then, on March 31, 2018, Whitmire, now 17, held a 9 mm pistol 2 inches from Latifah Hudnall’s chest and pulled the trigger.
The 18-year-old aspiring cosmetologist died a short time later from a “penetrating, close range gunshot wound to the torso,” according to the autopsy.
It was an accident, Whitmire said, but his chances had run out.
The gun that killed Hudnall was the 15th firearm Richmond and Henrico police have linked to Whitmire since 2016, when he lied about the drive-by shooting, according to Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Kirk Conway. All were obtained illegally, he said.
Whitmire was sentenced last month as an adult in Richmond Circuit Court to nine years in prison after earlier pleading no contest to involuntary manslaughter, reckless handling of a firearm and shooting in an occupied vehicle. Judge C.N. Jenkins Jr. took into account that he’s a juvenile and ordered him into the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice before prison.
“It’s not uncommon in the juvenile system to give them chances,” said Whitmire’s attorney, Jim Nachman. “They have to understand that there are consequences to their actions. I think to a large extent that happened to Terrence — until this happened. ... He isn’t a bad kid. He did something very reckless.”
Whitmire had given Hudnall and a friend money to buy cigarettes from a convenience store in the 4900 block of Government Road. When the girls came back to the car, where Whitmire was waiting, Hudnall didn’t hand over all of the spare change. Hudnall’s friend, a witness, said Whitmire “jokingly” pulled the gun, which he told police he had found on the floorboard, pointed it at Hudnall’s chest and demanded the money.
He told police he didn’t think the gun was loaded because it was so light. But when he pulled the trigger, it fired.
Whitmire fled the scene, taking the gun with him.
A search of Whitmire’s phone revealed that he had saved a post advertising an SCCY Industries 9 mm handgun, a similar caliber to the bullet that killed Hudnall, for sale or trade the day before, according to court records. He had also searched the internet for accessories for the gun, including extended magazines so it held more ammunition. The gun was never recovered.
A social history investigation and risk assessment completed by Whitmire’s probation officer as part of his sentencing said Whitmire is “identified as an overall high risk to re-offend.” The probation officer recommended six to nine months detention in a juvenile facility.
Sentencing guidelines, prepared based on similar cases, called for a term from one year and five months to three years and nine months.
Whitmire was sentenced as a “serious offender,” meaning he will be assessed by Jenkins after two years in juvenile detention and then again when he is 21. The judge has the discretion at that time to adjust a sentence if he believes Whitmire is doing well. The sentencing order is not yet available, so it is unclear whether the time he spends in juvenile detention will count toward the nine-year term.
“Even at 18-year-old she knew what she wanted to do with her life,” Hudnall’s sister, Kayana Brown, wrote in a letter to the judge. “She was a star, one that shined extremely bright. But on March 31, 2018, her light was dimmed.”
On Friday, Whitmire was back in court. Henrico’s juvenile court had transferred the felony charge stemming from the burglary of guns when he was 16 to Richmond’s juvenile court. Because of the severity of the Circuit Court’s sentence, the juvenile court judge sustained Henrico’s earlier punishment, Nachman said.
In a letter that Whitmire read aloud before he was sentenced, he asked for forgiveness from Hudnall’s family and took “full responsibility” for his actions.
“I’m not a monster,” he said. “I’m not a bad person. I just made a very terrible mistake. ... Now that I’m locked up, I see what everyone was trying to tell me growing up, I just wish I would have listened to everyone who tried to help. I should have been on TV playing sports or in college getting my education or going to the Army to fight for my country. But instead I will be spending a lot of time behind bars.”