Graham pleads guilty to McGill killing

SPOKANE, Wash. - Avondre Graham pleaded guilty Thursday morning to second degree murder for the killing of Sharlotte McGill last year.

Graham, 18, changed his plea on the murder charge a little over a month after Judge Maryann Moreno ruled that he was competent to stand trial for McGill's May 2012 killing as she was walking her dog near her home in the 1800 block of East South Riverton.

Judge Moreno sentenced Graham to serve 123 months in jail, which is at the low end of the sentencing range for second degree murder, and after he is released from custody she ordered he spend 36 months in community custody.

As part of the plea deal, robbery and assault charges were severed from the murder charge plea, and prosecutors said during Thursday's plea change and sentencing hearing that a separate plea agreement was in the works on those charges.

Attorney Jeffry Finer read a statement on behalf of McGill's daughter, Billie McKinney, who stood next to him as he read her statement.

"When you feel that life is not fair, please do not forget my mother. There was nothing more unfair than what happened to her that day. She lost her life, and the punishment does not fit the crime. Someone used their hands to take my mother away from me forever. Those hands carved nine holes in her chest, in her neck, her face, and her arms. This punishment does not fit that crime," McKinney wrote. "She held me coming into this world, and I held her going out."

"The day my mother died, I said, and I was quoted in the news, that her murderer was a 'monster.' I know why I felt that way, and I know there's part of me that feels that way today. But I want to say something else. The defendant's crime is partly on all of us. I know he was failed by all of us. He has his own burdens and struggles, and life has dealt him some very rough deals. And I'm sorry for his faults and for those who let him down. I know you have to impose a sentence and then you move on. I have to find a way to find forgiveness, and I'm not sure if I will ever see that happen," she added.

Janelle Stone, Graham's cousin, then addressed the court and read a statement on behalf of his family for the suffering caused by McGill's killing, and then made a personal comment for herself, taking the media to task for their portrayal of Graham in the news.

"Avondre Graham is not the young man the media has portrayed him out to be," she said. "He is not some kind of gang member or delinquent. He does not go around looking for or causing trouble. Avondre is caring, kind, gentle, warmhearted. He is trustworthy, trustworthy, reliable, genuine, and very lovable. He is smart, very funny, and goofy. He loves to dance. The majority of the time he would rather hang out with his family rather than his friends. He is very family oriented."

After those statements to the court, Graham himself addressed the court and apologized for his actions.

"I'm sorry. This will never happen again. And I am truly sorry to the McGill family," he said, motioning to McKinney. "And I know they're going through a hard time. And like I said, this will never happen again. And I do accept the punishment for what you're going to give me. And that's it, your Honor."

Josh Gahl, the man who called 911 as an assault was in progress in September 2012, which helped police find and arrest Graham, was glad to hear about his guilty plea.

"That's kind of just my main concern, giving Sharlotte's family some peace if that's possible," he said.