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Culpeper teen indicted on second-degree murder charge in NYE shooting
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Culpeper teen indicted on second-degree murder charge in NYE shooting

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This story has been edited from its original version.

A grand jury on Tuesday indicted a Culpeper teenager on a second-degree murder charge in the fatal New Year’s Eve shooting of another teen outside of a home on Third Street in town.

Eastern View High School student Khaliq Amod Clark, 17, will be tried as an adult in the death of 19-year-old Trajon Taylor of Culpeper. 

The grand jury on Feb. 16, 2021 also handed down indictments against Clark for shooting into an occupied building and use of a firearm in commission of a felony, first offense.

In a separate homicide case in Fauquier County, Clark was also recently charged with first-degree murder as a co-defendant with another 17-year-old Culpeper male in the shooting death in Warrenton of 21-year-old Derek De La Iglesia on Oct. 6, 2020.

A Fauquier grand jury is slated to hear that case in March.

Clark will be arraigned March 23 in Culpeper Circuit Court in Taylor’s death, according to court records.

He appeared Tuesday in Culpeper Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court as co-defendant on an unrelated charge of robbing Westside Grocery on Sperryville Pike in the town of Culpeper on June 23, 2020.

Six armed bailiffs surrounded the small-in-stature juvenile in the small courtroom presided over by Judge Frank Somerville, who was sitting behind protective plastic panels.

According to Culpeper prosecutor Liz Rabb, nothing was stolen from the store in the robbery case. However, Clark and the same 17-year-old Culpeper male charged in in the Warrenton murder case went to Westside Grocery with the intent of robbing it, Rabb alleged.

The juvenile also appeared on Tuesday, after Clark, on the same robbery charge in JDR Court.

“They said they wanted to rob Westside Grocery,” Rabb said.

As part of a plea deal, Clark entered an Alford Plea to attempted grand larceny, a Class 5 felony. In an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt, but acknowledges there is sufficient evidence for a conviction.

Wearing jeans, a blue sweatshirt and handcuffs, Clark was given a 30-day sentence at Blue Ridge Juvenile Correctional Center. He has been held in the Charlottesville facility since he turned himself in to Culpeper police on Jan. 3 in Taylor’s death.

A third defendant in the Westside robbery case, Isaiah Lambert, who is an adult, stood outside the small market while Clark and the other 17-year-old went inside, according to Rabb.

When the shop owner called police, the trio ran away, she said.

“They had an agreement to go in there and rob the place,” she said. “Since nothing happened, it meets the standard of justice,” Rabb said of the amended charge.

Lambert entered an Alford plea in circuit court in December to an amended charge of grand larceny, according to court records.

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Madison attorney Fred Henshaw is representing Clark and was with him at Tuesday’s hearing on the robbery charge.

A robbery conviction for an adult carries a potential sentence of life in prison, the judge stated in explaining a potential benefit of the plea deal. Somerville similarly advised of potential drawbacks of the plea, noting that the “adult court” trying him on other charges would be able to look into the juvenile’s record and see the felony conviction.

“A finding of guilt here could have some influence there,” the judge said.

Clark’s stepfather, who was in the courtroom with Clark’s mother, made it evident he was upset when his stepson entered the plea in the robbery. The stepfather claimed he was led to believe by Henshaw that attempted grand larceny was a misdemeanor.

“He’s a child; he’s a gunshot victim, all of this is alleged,” the stepfather said.

Clark, according to Culpeper police, sustained a gunshot wound in the deadly New Year’s Eve shooting and was taken to a local hospital by private vehicle.

His stepfather in court Tuesday exchanged heated words with the judge and addressed Clark before leaving the courtroom for a brief conference with Henshaw over the amended robbery charge.

“My son agreed to this,” the stepfather said. “I love you, son.”

The young defendant, asked by the judge if the agreed to the plea deal, said yes.

“I proceed with what we’re doing today,” Clark said.

The 17-year-old co-defendant accepted the same deal in the robbery case in Culpeper Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court on Tuesday, and was convicted of attempted grand larceny. He, too, received a 30-day sentence at the Blue Ridge juvenile facility, where has been held since his arrest by Warrenton Police Jan. 25.

“Why take the plea?” Henshaw asked.

The juvenile responded, “Less time.”

According to testimony last month in the second-degree murder case stemming from Taylor’s death in Culpeper, three other juvenile males were with Clark at the scene of the shooting, which, according to police, spanned a considerable area along the short residential street connecting Virginia Avenue with Monticello Avenue.

Among those other juveniles present at the Culpeper scene, according to court testimony last month, was the same 17-year-old male co-defendant charged in last year’s fatal shooting in Warrenton and the Westside robbery, meaning Clark and the juvenile are accused of being together at three separate alleged crimes in 2020. The 17-year-old was not charged in the Culpeper New Year’s Eve death.

The incident in Culpeper started on the porch of the Third Street residence when four males approached the house where Taylor was living, according to witness testimony, around 11 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2020.

The males, who were previously acquainted with Taylor, knocked on the front door to ask about shoes left at the residence earlier in the night when a verbal argument reportedly ensued before turning violent.

“Get the (expletive deleted) off the block,” Taylor reportedly said, according to witness testimony, before he was fatally shot.

Dozens of bullet casings were found at the crime scene, according to court testimony. Taylor died on Jan. 1, 2021, according to his obituary.

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