Murder suspect pleads not guilty

Published 10:32 pm Thursday, January 27, 2011

A suspect in the August murder of Lakeland High School student TyQuan Lewis had his first court appearance on the charges Thursday.

Dontaz Wilkerson, 19, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and other charges. He requested a jury trial, which is set for May 12-13.

Randy Copeland, also 19, also is charged in the shooting death of the football player. He has an arraignment set for Feb. 23. At the arraignment, he will enter a plea and, if he pleads not guilty, tell the court whether he wants to be tried by the judge or by a jury.

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The two were indicted Monday on first-degree murder and weapons charges in connection with the Aug. 1 incident.

At the time of the arrests, police said Wilkerson was the shooter, while Copeland was present at the time of the shooting and provided Wilkerson with the firearm.

The incident reportedly began at a back-to-college party at the Bethlehem Ruritan clubhouse. At 12:43 a.m., a female 911 caller said there was a fight at the party, and that some people had guns.

City spokeswoman Debbie George said at the time that Lewis and Wilkerson left the party and met up on Spruce Street, where they again argued and left. They finally met again on Walnut Street, near Booker T. Washington Elementary School. A 911 call at 1:38 a.m. reported shots fired in that area.

Lewis, 18, was a football standout at Lakeland. Teachers and coaches described him in a memorial service at the school as charismatic, respectful and passionate.