JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Two teens convicted of killing 22-month-old Aiden McClendon in a gang rivalry shooting appeared in Duval County court Thursday for a sentencing hearing.
Kquame Richardson and Henry Hayes IV were found guilty last month of first-degree murder and other charges in the January 2016 shooting death of Aiden. Prosecutors said Aiden was sitting in a car in his car seat in front of a Jacksonville home when Hayes and Richardson opened fire, aiming for Aiden's cousin, a rival gang member. Aiden was wounded by several bullets, and the fatal shot hit him in the back.
Richardson and Hayes, both 19, are facing the possibility of life in prison with the chance for parole.
During Thursday's sentencing hearing for both Richardson and Hayes, emotions ran high as the prosecution and defense called loved ones to the stand.
The state called Tomeshia Brown, Aiden's mother, via Skype.
"In my heart, I feel like a piece of me died with Aiden. My baby was only 22 months and he didn’t deserve to have his life taken away from him. Now, all I have are the great things he could have done with his life," Brown said, crying. "There's no justification for what happened to my son."
The defense also argued against the prosecution’s mention of Richardson’s previous run-ins with law enforcement. In 2012, Richardson was accused of sexual battery of a girl under 10 years old, which, his mother testified, didn’t make him a bad person.
When the prosecution asked Tracy Richardson, his mother, if her son "indicated he had sex with a 10 year old," she responded, "Something like that. I don’t know."
The judge said the incident, which he said was deemed sexual battery, was not relevant to the case.
Other family members of the defendants spoke, arguing the teens' innocence. Hayes' father testified his son had a "normal childhood."
The defense called a psychologist, who said Hayes would be fit for rehabilitation.
“This is a prognosis for change. His personality wasn’t fully formed at that age," the psychologist said.
Even Richardson testified, apologizing for the family’s loss. He asked to take a lie detector test, but that request was denied by the judge.
The state is requesting life in prison for the defendants. The judge said he will impose sentences for Richardson and Hayes on Aug. 23.
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