The sister of 15-year-old Ayana Vionce Culbreath told a Scott County judge Thursday that her sister was not just another name on the increasing list of those lost to gun violence in the Quad-Cities.
She was a sister, a daughter, a granddaughter and an aunt. Culbreath was loving and had a bright future ahead of her.
She was looking forward to graduating from high school and finding a good job when her life was cut short on June 26, 2016, Sharday Brokhart said.
“Her future was taken from her and her life was taken from us,” she said during the sentencing hearing for Trevor D. Owens, one of two teenagers who pleaded guilty to charges in connection with Culbreath’s death.
“There’s no excuse or reason behind why this happened. It was senseless and those responsible need to be held accountable.”
Owens, 19, was sentenced Thursday to up to 20 years in prison on charges of intimidation with a dangerous weapon, involuntary manslaughter, and possession of a firearm or offensive weapon by a felon.
The sentence will run concurrently, or at the same time, as two concurrent five-year sentences in separate burglary and theft cases.
Because he was 17 at the time of the shooting, he is not required to serve a mandatory minimum sentence before he can be considered for parole.
Owens also was ordered to pay $150,000 in restitution to Culbreath’s heirs.
Police say Owens and co-defendant Kamario C. Hill, then 14, each fired a handgun toward a group of people during a large gathering in the backyard of 4233 Warren St. on June 26, 2016.
Culbreath, who was shot in the chest, was taken to Genesis Medical Center-East Rusholme Street, Davenport, where she was pronounced dead.
Witnesses at the gathering identified Hill and Owens as the shooters, according to police.
Owens admitted at his plea hearing on Dec. 1 that he fired toward a group of rival gang members with the intent to scare them.
He was previously adjudicated as a delinquent on a felony burglary charge and is prohibited from possessing or owning a firearm.
Hill, now 15, also pleaded guilty Dec. 1 to as a youthful offender in adult court to one count of attempted murder, a Class B felony.
Both teens originally faced the more serious charge of first-degree murder.
On Thursday, Juvenile Court Judge Mark Fowler ordered that Hill be remanded to the Iowa State Training School for Boys in Eldora until he turns 18.
The judge also ordered him to complete 100 hours of community service, and ordered that he complete additional community service hours to make up for court-appointed attorney fees.
Fowler called Culbreath's death “unimaginable in my mind.”
“It’s despicable and it’s irrevocable,” he said. “The victim’s life was tragically ended.”
Hill declined to make a statement before the sentence was handed down. Culbreath’s family declined to give a victim impact statement.
As a youthful offender, Hill will remain under the supervision of juvenile court until just before he turns 18.
The case then would be remanded to adult court, where a judge would determine whether to sentence him to adult prison or discharge him, among other sentencing options.
A juvenile court services officer testified Thursday that Hill has previously had three separate adjudications on charges of simple assault, intimidation with a dangerous weapon, reckless use of a firearm causing bodily injury, assault while displaying a dangerous weapon, carrying weapons, interference with official acts and possession of a firearm as an adjudicated felon.
In one case, he fired a gun at a juvenile who was walking with group of friends in the 700 block of West 14th Street. The juvenile was hit in the lower leg, according to court records.
During his sentencing hearing, Owens said that he never had any intention of shooting anybody that night and that “I most certainly did not kill Ayana Culbreath.”
While he has been in jail, Owens said he has matured and realizes that he did not like the path his life was taking.
“Although I did not take Ayana Culbreath’s life, I am ashamed of the part I helped contribute to her losing her life,” he said. “I realized that I have to live with the demons of being involved in a young girl’s death for the rest of my life.”
Brokhart said that “this devastating event has become the norm on young teens in the Quad-Cities.”
“Until someone stands up for those lives lost, making sure that those responsible are not able to repeat their actions, our family members and our babies will continue to die,” she said. “This is not a video game, this is real life. I pray that my sister’s death was not in vain and that this does not continue to happen.”
District Court Judge Patrick McElyea said prison was appropriate for Owens based on the seriousness of the offense, the decisions Owens made that night and his prior criminal history.
The judge also noted services Owens received as a juvenile through Scott County and the state of Iowa “trying to find a way to allow you to be in the community and keep people safe and at the same time allow you to mature and grow as a young man.”
“Unfortunately, all of those failed, and that is why we’re here today,” he said.