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A North Carolina man may face the death penalty if he is convicted in the deadly shooting of a neighbor’s 5-year-old son in 2020.
A Wilson County judge ruled on Thursday that prosecutors could proceed in seeking the death penalty against Darius Sessoms, 25, who allegedly shot Cannon Hinnant, 5, in the head as the youngster rode his bicycle in 2020.
A grand jury indicted Sessoms on charges of first-degree murder and possession of a firearm in connection with the child’s death in December 2021. The state has previously characterized the boy’s killing as particularly heinous.
Sessoms allegedly shot and killed Cannon on on Aug. 9, 2020, as the little boy rode his bicycle in front of his own father’s residence on Archers Road in Wilson — about 40 miles east of Raleigh — according to Washington, North Carolina television station WITN-TV.
The shooting occurred in the presence of the 5-year-old’s two older sisters, according to Hinnant’s family.
Police said Sessoms, who lived next door to the Hinnant family, fled the scene and was later arrested in Goldsboro, North Carolina, according to the Wilson Police Department.
A motive in the brazen killing hasn’t been released by officials.
Sessom's girlfriend, Aolani Takemi Marie Pettit, 21, faces felony accessory after the fact in the young boy’s murder. Petit allegedly provided transportation to Sessoms after the fatal shooting.
During this week’s court proceedings, witnesses — including neighbors — testified about the moments leading up to the shooting as well as its aftermath.
On Wednesday, a neighbor told the court she saw Sessoms dash into Cannon Hinnant's yard and put a pistol to the boy’s head. The woman described seeing a “burst of flame” from the gun’s barrel before watching the 5-year-old fall to the ground. She testified that she phoned emergency dispatchers.
Body camera video of the aftermath of Cannon Hinnant’s shooting, as well as photos of the crime scene, were also entered into evidence this week.
More than a dozen of Hinnant’s family members attended Thursday’s hearing, WTVD reported. The family — who have long-called for Sessoms to face the death penalty — welcomed the judge’s ruling this week.
"I pray he gets the death penalty,” Bonny Parker, Cannon Hinnant's mother, had told Raleigh television station WRAL in 2020. “We will fight for that till the end."
The family has previously said they have no idea why Sessoms shot the 5-year-old boy.
"There wasn't anything between me and him, any bad blood whatsoever, for him to have a reason to do this," Austin Hinnant, Cannon's father, told WRAL in 2020.
Cannon Hinnant’s family described the 5-year-old as a “loving child” who “lit up any room he walked into,” ABC News reported.
“Cannon was the type of kid that was always polite, kind of laid back, but he was a beautiful little kid,” godfather Merrill Race told WTVD.
North Carolina hasn’t put anyone to death since the 2006 execution of Samuel Flippen, who was convicted of beating his 12-year-old stepdaughter to death, the Fayetteville Observer reported. There are currently 135 inmates on death row in the state, according to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety.
Sessoms is currently being held without bond ahead of his trial.
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