A North Carolina man accused of fatally shooting a 5-year-old boy riding his bike took an Alford plea on Thursday and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
An Alford plea means that Darius Sessoms, 25, maintains that he is innocent of the murder of Cannon Hinnant, witnessed by neighbors as well as the boy’s siblings, but acknowledges prosecutors likely have enough evidence to convict him. The plea also saves him from the death penalty, WRAL reported.
Cannon Hinnant was riding his bike outside his father’s home in Wilson on August 9, 2020, playing with his 8- and 7-year-old sisters, when Sessoms — who lived next door and had dinner at the Hinnant home the night before — walked up to the boy and shot him in the head at point blank range, as CrimeOnline reported. He fled the scene shortly afterward but was apprehended the next day.
His girlfriend at the time, Aolani Pettit, was arrested on an obstruction of justice charge. She previously pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four to 14 months, suspended, with 18 months supervised probation.
“It all happened so fast. It was like any other Sunday with my family,” Austin Hinnant told CrimeOnline’s Nancy Grace shortly after the horrific murder. “We went to church, we followed up with lunch and came home and relaxed. The children wanted to go outside and play and was doing what they loved.”
Neighbors were outside and saw the murder along with Cannon’s two sisters. Austin Hinnant was inside.
“I heard one single shot. I could tell that it was close. Before I even made it out my front door, I knew something was wrong. I had to run outside and find my son bleeding from the head,” Austin said, his voice cracking as he relived the experience.
After Thursday’s court proceedings, Cannon’s mother, Bonny Parker, told WRAL that the plea “brings us a little bit of peace.”
“Knowing that we are walking out of here today and we don’t have to come back. We don’t have to see him,” she said. “My girls do not have to testify in court. That was the whole reason why he took this plea. It was best for him to take this plea so it would not have to get our girls up there.”
Parker had previously said she didn’t feel justice would be done unless Sessoms got the death penalty.
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[Featured imagee: Cannon Hinnant/handout]