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Shaitan Cook pleads guilty in Decatur murder case, gets 20-year sentence

Shaitan Cook pleads guilty in Decatur murder case, gets 20-year sentence


DECATUR — Shaitan L. Cook Jr., the last of the convicted killers of Decatur woman Cesley Taylor to be sentenced, changed his mind at the last moment about a jury trial Monday and was sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to a single count of first-degree murder.

The sentence, to be served at 100%, was part of a plea deal negotiated by Cook’s lawyer, Chris Amero. The plea deal saw four other alternate murder charges dropped in Macon County Circuit Court, along with two counts of armed robbery.

The deal also amended the murder charge the 20-year-old Cook did plead to, removing any reference to the gun that was used by an accomplice to shoot Taylor to death. Leaving the reference in would have triggered a sentencing enhancement capable of adding another 15 years to Cook’s prison time.

Cook, who has been held in custody since the day after Taylor, 21, was killed in a hail of bullets while being robbed in her apartment on the night of Sept. 7, 2015, will also get credit for time served from Sept. 8, 2015, to Feb. 23, 2020.

Outlining the case against Cook, special prosecutor Kate Kurtz told Judge Thomas Griffith that Cook and three accomplices — Ryan H.J. O’Neal, Darion L. Evans and Daiquan D. Cline, all aged 16 at the time — had set out to rob Taylor, whom they believed had money.

Cook was armed with a BB gun but Evans carried a real handgun, gunning down a terrified Taylor as she retreated while clutching her pet dog. Taylor died at the scene while her fiance, Britney Wilson, survived after being shot multiple times. The robbers' haul amounted to $40 cash, a cellphone and some trinkets.

Of the others involved, Evans was sentenced to 45 years in prison after pleading guilty to first degree murder in November 2017. Cline pleaded guilty to murder in February 2017 and received a 20-year sentence and O’Neal, convicted of murder and armed robbery after a bench trial before Griffith, was sentenced to 24 years in prison in October.

Kurtz told the judge that both the surviving victim and the murder victim’s family were willing to go along with the Cook plea deal.

After checking with Cook that he was still willing to accept the deal himself, Griffith told him the range of potential sentences outside the deal stretched from 20 to 60 years.

“And you understand that, even as amended, it is still a 100% sentence, meaning you have to serve 100% of the 20 years, do you understand that sentence?” the judge added.

“Yes, sir,” replied Cook.

Griffith finished the proceedings by signing an order returning Cline and Evans back to their prison cells. They had been moved to holding cells in the Macon County Jail in readiness to be used as witnesses if the Cook case had gone to trial.

Contact Tony Reid at (217) 421-7977. Follow him on Twitter: @TonyJReid


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