Gwinnett teen’s killers sentenced to life after plea deal

Victim’s mother provides tearful testimony alongside urn containing her son’s remains
Elijah DeWitt, 18, was killed in a shooting in the parking lot of a Dave & Buster's at Sugarloaf Mills mall.

Credit: Jefferson High School Football

Credit: Jefferson High School Football

Elijah DeWitt, 18, was killed in a shooting in the parking lot of a Dave & Buster's at Sugarloaf Mills mall.

Nearly two years after a Jefferson High School football star was gunned down in a Gwinnett County parking lot, two defendants in the case agreed to plead guilty to felony murder charges and each received life sentences.

Elijah DeWitt, 18, was shot and killed in the Sugarloaf Mills parking lot on Oct. 5, 2022. Two of the men charged in his killing, who were teenagers at the time, agreed to a plea that dropped the charge of malice murder against each of them. As a result of the non-negotiated deal, Gwinnett prosecutors and their defense lawyers argued over the terms of their sentences at a hearing Monday afternoon.

DeWitt’s mother, Dawn DeWitt, brought the urn containing her son’s ashes to the courtroom and offered her testimony through tears.

“Each day I wake up, I still gasp for air as I’m reminded again that he is not here. He is a murder victim, and he is not coming home,” she said.

Kemare Bryan, who fatally shot DeWitt, was sentenced to life without parole by Gwinnett Superior Court Judge Ronnie Batchelor. Chandler Richardson, who fired at DeWitt but missed, was sentenced to life plus five years with the possibility of parole.

Both men are 20.

Assistant District Attorney Jim Carmichael said investigators were able to piece together what happened using video from Sugarloaf Mills and a Tesla that was parked directly across from the murder scene. The Tesla, which was not involved in the incident, recorded the killing in great detail, Carmichael said.

The incident began when Bryan, Richardson and a third suspect, Kpadeh Jones, appeared to notice DeWitt with a group of friends at a Dave & Buster’s, Carmichael said. Jones is awaiting trial and was not involved in Monday’s hearing.

According to Carmichael, Bryan, Richardson and Jones approached DeWitt and his group to talk about DeWitt’s clothing.

“They had some great interest in the clothes that Elijah was wearing,” Carmichael said. “It was evidently quite an outfit that he really loved, that his parents bought special for him.”

The defendants also talked to DeWitt’s friends about selling them a small amount of marijuana, Carmichael said, though DeWitt was not involved in the arrangement.

After the groups spoke, the defendants went outside and moved their car closer to DeWitt’s, Carmichael said. DeWitt and one of his friends then went outside. Bryan walked toward DeWitt while Richardson shadowed his movements on the other side of the row of cars, Carmichael said. Jones allegedly waited nearby, according to the prosecutor.

As Bryan walked up to DeWitt, he pulled a handgun from his waistband and pointed it at the football player, Carmichael said. Bryan brandished the gun at DeWitt at near-point-blank range, and DeWitt tried to push him away. When he pushed Bryan, the defendant fired his gun, hitting DeWitt in the chest and fatally wounding him, Carmichael said.

When the first shot was fired, Richardson ran over to Bryan and DeWitt, where he pointed his gun at the victim on the ground and fired it, Carmichael said. Crime scene investigators initially believed Richardson had shot DeWitt a second time. Analysis showed that Richardson actually missed and fired into the pavement beside DeWitt, Carmichael said.

After the second shot, everyone at the scene fled, according to Carmichael. Bryan and Richardson got in their car and drove away while DeWitt’s friend ran.

Bryan and Richardson were arrested two days later in South Carolina. Jones was arrested more than a month later.

“I do not think there are words that describe this,” Dawn DeWitt said during Monday’s hearing. “Elijah left home to go have fun for fall break and now he is dead.”

Bryan and Richardson apologized to the DeWitt family and asked the judge to grant them mercy. In her testimony, Dawn DeWitt described the harshness of what she said has become her own life sentence.

Both defendants argued for life sentences with parole, but only Richardson was granted that possibility. Those sentenced to life in Georgia are not considered for parole until they’ve served 30 years in prison, and Richardson is sentenced to life plus five years. He has been held in the Gwinnett jail since his arrest more than a year and a half ago, so his earliest parole date would likely be after 2056.