Murderer receives 34 years in prison

Published 5:09 pm Wednesday, December 10, 2008

By Tracy Agnew

Staff Writer

A Suffolk man was sentenced to 34 ½ years in prison as his mother sobbed uncontrollably in the courtroom on Wednesday.

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Larry Lavelle Darden, 20, received 33 years in prison for his role in the shooting death of Deshawn Parker on Jan. 18, 2006. He received an additional year and a half for an assault on another prisoner at Western Tidewater Regional Jail on Aug. 21, 2008.

Darden was 17 years old when he and another man, Brandon Artis, both fired weapons at Parker on South 10th Street. Although it was Artis who fired the fatal shot, it’s all the same in the eyes of the law, ruled Circuit Court Judge Rodham T. Delk Jr.

“I would like to apologize to the victim’s family and my family,” Darden said just before the sentence was read. “I was wrong for doing what I done.”

Darden’s defense attorney called three witnesses, including his mother. Two of the witnesses said they had attended church with Darden when he was younger, and had always known him to be respectful and kind. His mother, Mary Gibbons, agreed.

“He was well-behaved as a child,” she said. “He just got in with the wrong crowd, the wrong time.”

Gibbons did not get far into her testimony before breaking down in tears. Despite being handed tissues by sheriff’s deputies and taking a short break, she said she was unable to continue testifying.

The only witness for the prosecution was Anthony Parker, the victim’s father. He’ll always remember where he was when he got the call that his son was dead, he said.

“On Jan. 18, 2006, I was sitting at my desk working,” he said.

When someone called to say his son was dead, he went straight to the crime scene.

“My son was laying in the middle of the street,” he said. “For the last three years, it’s been a roller coaster, up and down.”

The court appearances are especially difficult, so much so that his wife was not able to come with him this time, he said.

“The painful part of all this is having to relive it every time we come back to court.”

Although the Parkers could have asked for restitution from Darden and Artis, Anthony Parker turned it down.

“There’s nothing you can give me that will give me my son back,” he said on the witness stand.

For the murder charge, Darden received 96 years in prison, with 66 suspended, for the murder and three years for use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. When Delk announced the sentence, several family members began crying so loudly that they were escorted out by sheriff’s deputies.

Darden also was sentenced for his role in an assault at Western Tidewater Regional Jail in August. He and two others assaulted a fourth inmate in the jail. For that incident, he received three years, with two suspended, for participation in a street gang, and six months in jail for assault and battery.

“It’s not behavior to be tolerated,” said Delk.

Delk sent Darden back to Western Tidewater Regional Jail to serve the six-month sentence for assault and battery. He will then be sent to the Department of Corrections to serve 34 years on the other charges. Upon his release, he will be on intensive supervised probation for an indefinite period of time, must pay his court costs, and is to have no contact or involvement with gang members.

Anthony Parker said he is glad the case is over.

“It’s bad on both sides of the house,” he said. “Their family is suffering just as much as ours is.”