A Durham man charged with murder in the wake of a drive-by shooting that killed a 13-year-old girl pleaded guilty this week to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.
Durham County Superior Court Judge Orlando F. Hudson on Wednesday sentenced Levette Lipscomb up to 7.5 years in prison, according to records filed at the Durham County Clerk of Superior Courts Office.
Lipscomb, 30, of North Briggs Avenue in East Durham has already spent about 3.5 years in jail since his arrest on May 12, 2012, for the shooting death of Shakanah China. Lipscomb received credit for that time and will serve at least three more years behind bars.
Police said Shakanah was playing with her younger sister and brother outside an apartment on Atka Court off N.C. 98 in East Durham on May 10, 2011, when a green van sped past on an adjacent street. She was texting on her new cellphone when the pop of gunfire caught those gathered outside the apartment by surprise.
Shakanah fell to the ground after she was shot, then got back up and ran to her mother on the porch. Demetriss China told her wounded daughter, “Your momma loves you. Your family loves you.” Shakanah, a student at Lakeview Middle School, was pronounced dead a short time later at Duke University Medical Center.
Investigators said the shooting was gang-related and cited it as an aggravating factor, along with Shakanh’s age. Lipscomb’s previous criminal record included convictions for public disturbance-riot, disorderly conduct, misdemeanor larceny, possession of stolen goods, robbery with a dangerous weapon and maintaining a vehicle for the sale of a controlled substance, state records show.
Six days after Lipscomb’s arrest, police charged a second man, Brandon Shamar Townsend, with murder in Shakanah’s death. Police accused Townsend of driving the van used in the shooting.
But Townsend’s attorney, Scott Holmes, filed motions in court that indicated investigators had not found any physical evidence of his client being in the van. Nor were there any eyewitnesses who identified Townsend as the driver, court records show.
Holmes filed a court motion asserting prosecutors had violated his right to a speedy trial while awaiting lab results from the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation.
Last year, on March 31, after Townsend had spent 682 days in jail, prosecutors dismissed the charge against him.
Months later, in early August, Chapel Hill police charged Townsend and another man, Bartholomew Romindas Scott, with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder in connection with the shooting of a Durham man, Lew Hahn “Ron” Hood, on May 30, 2014.