4th suspect in Andrew Graham murder gets 10-year sentence

Clarissa Lockhart reaches case's end after plea deal

Ellis Arnold
earnold@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 6/30/20

After years of court hearings, the last of four original defendants in the fatal 2009 shooting of a 23-year-old Centennial man has been sentenced. Clarissa Jae Lockhart received a 10-year prison …

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4th suspect in Andrew Graham murder gets 10-year sentence

Clarissa Lockhart reaches case's end after plea deal

Posted

After years of court hearings, the last of four original defendants in the fatal 2009 shooting of a 23-year-old Centennial man has been sentenced.

Clarissa Jae Lockhart received a 10-year prison sentence on June 26 after she pleaded guilty on Feb. 27 to a racketeering charge, which generally relates to organized crime.

Her charges of conspiracy and felony murder were dismissed as part of a plea deal. Multiple suspects in the group that allegedly approached Andrew Graham in a robbery attempt were charged with first-degree felony murder, meaning that authorities suspected that death was caused by anyone in the group. The charge applies when a death occurs in connection with another serious crime.

Lockhart, like other defendants in the case, agreed to testify in future court proceedings regarding Graham's death.

Graham, a University of Colorado graduate, was found shot dead at about 5:30 a.m. on Nov. 6, 2009, in the front yard of a home in the Willow Creek neighborhood of Centennial near East County Line Road and South Yosemite Street, an area that sees little violent crime. He had been walking home from the RTD light rail station near Park Meadows mall in Lone Tree, near Centennial, around midnight.

He had been in Boulder that night making living arrangements, his mother, Cyndi Gelston Graham, told the Arapahoe County District Court during Lockhart's June 26 hearing held over video conference.

“He was trying to get home for my birthday,” Gelston Graham said.

She painted the picture of a young man who “treated everyone with respect” and was prone to acts of kindness. The night he was killed, he had stopped to buy sandwiches to share with a homeless man.

“I learned from his friends he had a habit of doing that,” his mother said.

Lockhart has said she was not involved in Graham's homicide, said Neil Silver, her defense attorney.

Terrell O'Neil Jones is Graham's alleged shooter, according to a March 10 affidavit that an Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office investigator submitted to request a warrant for his arrest. Jones was arrested that day, KCNC-CBS4 reported.

In 2009, “I was a young woman with very little insight as to what life was about,” Lockhart told the court, adding that she followed people who were bad influences.

Those close to Lockhart emphasized to the court her efforts to financially support herself and be responsible. Lockhart was 18 at the time of the shooting, and her co-defendants were the same age or slightly younger. Lockhart said she's “determined to prove” she'll be a “a productive member of society.”

“I know there are no words that will bring Andrew Graham back,” said Lockhart, visibly emotional at times in her address. She added: “I'm just trying to be a better citizen in society. I can't take back anything I've done, but I truly am sorry, Mrs. Graham. I am sorry for my actions.”

Silver believes “there was a racial bias that was part of this case,” he told the court. He previously has said in court that prosecutors opted for charges in the Graham case under an organized-crime law for some of the defendants based on suspicion of involvement in black-youth gangs targeting white people.

“I don't believe it was based on any race, creed or color,” Silver said.

Lockhart and co-defendants Allen Deshawn Ford and Kendall Adam Austin had been linked to a string of race-motivated robberies and assaults in downtown Denver in 2009, according to the affidavit and court proceedings in the Graham case. Suspects in that rash of crimes told police they targeted white males because they assumed they had money and wouldn’t fight back or present a threat.

Lockhart and Austin pleaded guilty to attempted robbery in September 2009 incidents, and Ford pleaded guilty to a bias-motivated crime involving “bodily injury” and pleaded guilty to assault in August 2009 incidents, according to online court records.

Judge Michael Spear took issue with Lockhart not taking responsibility for the death. In a court document, Lockhart said, “I will not accept responsibility for what I did not do,” Spear recounted. But he noted she pleaded guilty to the racketeering charge, not to the murder charge.

Lockhart's 10-year prison sentence includes a five-year mandatory period of parole, which begins after the prison time. Her 1,010 days served prior to her sentencing are subtracted from the 10 years.

Silver and Gelston Graham acknowledged Lockhart likely will exit prison before the full sentence ends. Actual time served is up to the Colorado Department of Corrections and can include time off for factors such as good behavior, according to the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office.

Chris Wilcox, a prosecutor for the DA's office on the case, told the court he is amazed that every time Graham's mother speaks in court, she tells a different story about Graham's kindness.

“I love my son and I miss him greatly,” Gelston Graham said, “and he is the kind of person we should all hope to be.”

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