Lonta Burress, Jr. Pleads Guilty To Voluntary Manslaughter In Death Of Darius Townsend

Thursday, October 17, 2013 - by Hollie Webb

Nineteen-year-old Lonta Burress, Jr. pleaded guilty Thursday morning to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of Darius Townsend. 

Though Burress and Defense Attorney Bill Speek still maintain his innocence, if he had gone to trial, he could have possibly been convicted of first-degree murder and faced life in prison. With the plea agreement, he has been sentenced to five years and is eligible for parole in 18 months. Voluntary manslaughter carries a minimum sentence of three years.

The victim and the defendant were both 17 at the time of the shooting. Burress was out on bond at the time, as he and another young man, Darius Gustus, had been charged months earlier in a school bus stop shooting. Burress was convicted of three counts of aggravated assault for the bus stop incident even thought Gustus was the only one to fire a weapon. Also, witnesses to this incident were unreliable at best. One did not show up to trial and later said she had memory problems. Another witness even changed his story.

Judge Don Poole asked Burress several questions to make sure that he knew what he was agreeing to, including questions about his education. Burress stated that he had only been in school until the ninth grade. He has been in custody for the past two years.

His family waited quietly for Attorney Speek outside the courtroom after the sentence was read. Mr. Speek said that they were “happy with the outcome,” and that “(Burress) is ready to get this portion of his life behind him.

“Lonta has always said he was innocent. He has the opportunity now to get out and lead a very productive life.”


McCormick Says Tax Increase Is Last Resort For Transportation Infrastructure

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick released the following statement to clarify previous remarks regarding transportation infrastructure funding: "I would like to take the opportunity to clarify my comments made to the Hamilton County Pachyderm Club yesterday regarding Tennessee’s transportation infrastructure. In no way am I advocating for our state to take on debt to fund ... (click for more)

Medical Examiner Changes Opinion In Case In Which Teen Lost Baby After Beating By Boyfriend

Hamilton County Medical Examiner Dr. James Metcalfe testified Tuesday that he had changed his findings in the death of a teen's foetus after she said she was beaten by her boyfriend. Dr. Metcalfe first listed the death of "Promise Jones" as a homicide due to blunt force injury.  He said he later determined that it could have been as the result of another cause - placental ... (click for more)

Why Chattanooga Should Stop Granting Apartment Complex PILOTs - And Response

A new report indicates why Chattanooga and Hamilton County officials do not need to extend PILOTs to apartment complex developers. Demand is high, therefore developers will continue to build to meet the demand without PILOTs. What is truly needed in the Chattanooga metroplex is low-income affordable housing. “Homeownership Drops to Lowest Level in Decades” ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Gun Control? Accuracy!

When President Barack Obama responded to the tragic killing of nine people who were worshiping at their beloved Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., last month, he immediately blamed the gun, saying, “We don't have all the facts, but we do know that once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hand on ... (click for more)

Dalton Edges Stuart Heights To Conclude Unbeaten Regular Season

The Dalton Dolphins had several key goals when the 2015 Chattanooga Area Swim League season began on the first day of June and they can put a big check mark by the first one, which was to go undefeated in the ever-competitive Blue division. They accomplished that goal before dark on Monday as they defeated a much-improved Stuart Heights squad by a 404-386 final that may have ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Hosts Nashville Friday In NPSL Playoffs

Chattanooga will host this weekend's National Premier Soccer League Southeast Conference playoffs. There are two semifinal matches on Friday with the two winners meeting in the Championship match the following night. “We’re very proud of the team for winning home field advantage,” said board member Krue Brock. “Now that every game is a must-win situation, it will be a big help ... (click for more)