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DECATUR – Shitavious Cook, who has been in custody since he was 15 years old on first-degree murder charges, has been sentenced to 22 years in prison after pleading guilty to attempted first-degree murder and dismembering a human body in two shooting incidents that occurred in August 2011.

Cook, who was scheduled to stand trial on Tuesday before he decided to plead guilty, stood before Associate Judge James Coryell, dressed in a jail jumpsuit, early Friday morning.

Coryell read aloud the charges to Cook, who was accompanied by his attorney, Charles Lukis.

“You committed the act of attempted first-degree murder in that with the intent to kill Joshua Anderson you personally discharged a shotgun that caused great bodily harm to Joshua Anderson,” he said. “You committed the offense of dismembering a human body, when you discharged a firearm in close proximity of the face and head of Billy Rutherford.”

In the attempted murder case, Anderson, then 31, was stopped at a red light on his motorcycle, at Grand Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive a few minutes before midnight Aug. 24, 2011. Cook fired a shotgun blast at him while standing in front of a house on the north side of Grand. He was wounded in his right leg.

Cook later told police he mistakenly shot Anderson because he believed he was Billy Rutherford, 24, who had threatened Cook's life. Rutherford owned a motorcycle that was almost identical.

Cook was arrested after Rutherford was shot to death five days later. The arrest was a result of information obtained by police that Cook had been telling people he mistakenly shot the wrong man on a motorcycle.

During a police interview, Cook said he saw Rutherford walk toward an alley behind North Woodford Street on the night of Aug. 29, then heard multiple gunshots. He admitted that after seeing Rutherford lying in the alley he fired a shotgun at his body.

A double-barreled shotgun was found at Cook's residence that contained one spent casing and one round of live ammunition.

On Friday, First Assistant State's Attorney Nichole Kroncke said in court that if the case had gone to trial she would have presented evidence from a forensic pathologist that showed the murder weapon was a 9 mm handgun and that Rutherford also suffered injuries to his face and head from a shotgun.

Although Cook was originally charged with first-degree murder, the forensic evidence later showed that Rutherford was deceased at the time Cook shot him.

Kroncke said that one reason Cook was offered the plea deal was that he cooperated with authorities to the extent that they were able to obtain convictions against his co-defendants, Demeco Hill and Felton Estes.

Hill, now 38, was convicted by a jury in January of a Class X felony, armed habitual criminal, and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Estes, now 32, pleaded guilty to one count of obstructing justice in March and was sentenced to five years in prison.

“Cook was given some consideration for his confession,” Kroncke said. “Without his statement Feloton Estes and Demeco Hill wouldn't have even been arrested.”

In addition to Hill's involvement in the murder of Rutherford, Hill also admitted that he was the owner of a firearm that was identified as the murder weapon in the 2011 slaying of 17-year-old Caleb Witty. The young victim was walking his sister home from Decatur Celebration on Aug. 4, 2011, when he was gunned down during an attempted robbery. That case remains unsolved.

Cook, who will receive credit for 1,235 days in custody, will serve 12 years for the conviction of dismembering a human body, at up to 85 percent of the term; the 10-year term for attempted first-degree murder will be served at 50 percent. The sentences are consecutive. Cook will be eligible for parole in 2026.

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Staff Writer

Staff Writer for the Herald & Review.