FORT WAYNE – It took a mere eight months from the time Deadrian Boykins gunned down 17-year-old Elijah Freeman in a south-side yard to get him convicted in November and sentenced to the maximum of 65 years in prison Friday.
Prosecutors are adamant that the relative quick end to the case stemmed from the willingness of a witness to come forward from the beginning and identify Boykins as the shooter. Freeman’s death was the 15th homicide this year in Allen County, which has seen 44 homicides, tying the record set in 1997.
Physical evidence collected at the scenes – shell casings and photographs – can only go so far, said Allen County Deputy Prosecutor Steve Godfrey, chief council of the Criminal Division.
Police can only do so much, Godfrey said Friday after the sentencing. Finally someone in the community spoke up and decided to be a witness for the state of Indiana.
Freeman was house-sitting, along with his girlfriend, for a woman in the 900 block of Hugh Street during spring break on April 3. He went out on the porch to smoke a cigarette with at least one other person, but was shot to death moments later. He ran down from the front porch into the backyard with bullets hitting him at close range. According to testimony, Freeman tried to evade and escape the shooter, getting up once, but dying in the backyard, his baseball hat a few feet away in the dirt.
All the witness statements were consistent – two men were seen running from the yard, one of them, the shooter, wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt and dark pants. A man across the street, Oster Jackson, said he knew the young man in the hood as Boykins, who frequently visited the neighborhood. Jackson identified Boykins to police almost immediately, and stuck to the story throughout the trial, telling the jury it was his duty to speak up for the neighborhood.
In November, the jury took about half an afternoon to convict the 19-year-old Boykins of murder in Freeman’s death.
Boykins maintains his innocence and intends to appeal his conviction.
On Friday morning, Allen Superior Judge Fran Gull sentenced Boykins to 65 years in prison, five years more than the prosecutors sought, after Boykins cursed at Freeman’s mother as she spoke.
As Sherry Freeman spoke, Boykins could not contain himself.
He took my son from me, she said.
I didn’t do shit, Boykins said, shaking his head. I didn’t take your son.
Yes, you did, Freeman said, looking toward Boykins.
As she spoke, he became increasingly agitated.
I will never get to see my son again, she said.
Yeah, (expletive) you, lady, he said, glaring at her.
Boykins has already been sentenced to six years in prison for his role in the attempted armed robbery of a local beauty college a year ago.
Deputy Prosecutor Jason Custer reminded the court of Boykins’ criminal behavior, which includes juvenile arrests for battery, resisting law enforcement and disorderly conduct.
He shot Elijah Freeman down like a dog, Custer said, as Boykins continued to shake his head. He is not fit for society. He is part of the problem in Fort Wayne.
Boykins declined to say anything to the court, though earlier in the hearing he expressed displeasure with his court-appointed attorney.
Sentencing Boykins, Gull called his behavior in the courtroom disrespectful, reprehensible and vulgar.
As bailiffs put handcuffs on a smirking Boykins and led him away, Sherry Freeman caught his eye in the back of the courtroom. She stuck her tongue out at him, and extended her middle finger.