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Two of four teens plead guilty in sandbag killing case

A few rocks were thrown off an overpass.

Then, a sandbag fell, crashing several feet below onto a heavily traveled portion of I-75. 

Another sandbag dropped. But this time, it came with the sound of smashing glass and crushed metal.

Two of the four Toledo teenagers accused of throwing the sandbag off the overpass — killing Marquise Byrd, 22, a passenger in a car — pleaded guilty Friday in Lucas County Juvenile Court.

Sean Carter, 14, and William Parker II, 15, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, a first degree felony; vehicular vandalism, a second degree felony, and a misdemeanor offense of vehicular vandalism. Both are scheduled to be sentenced March 9 before Judge Denise Navarre Cubbon.

VIDEO: Attorney for Byrd's family speaks after teens involved in sandbag killing appear in court

Both teens, along with Pedro Salinas, 13, and Demetrius Wimberly, 14, previously pleaded not guilty. After they appeared for a brief hearing before Judge Cubbon, Pedro and Demetrius watched their friends admit to their participation that night. 

Lillian Diallo, a Detroit-based attorney representing Mr. Byrd’s family, said the family is “very, very upset.” She had strong words for the Salinas boy, who is accused of throwing the sandbag that killed Mr. Byrd.

“This is not funny. Somebody is dead,” Ms. Diallo said following the hearing.

The family, she said, was upset by the way the boy was apparently smirking in the courtroom. Family of each boy and of Mr. Byrd sat in the courtroom, passing boxes of tissues back and forth.

The Carter and Parker boys answered questions Friday from Lori Olender, deputy chief of the juvenile division of the county prosecutor’s office, before their plea.

The four boys were walking to a store to purchase candy when they crossed the Indiana Avenue overpass. They began throwing rocks at cars, the boys said.

The Carter boy admitted Friday to throwing the first sandbag off the overpass.

Mr. Byrd was the passenger in a southbound vehicle when he suffered blunt-force trauma to the head and neck from a thrown sandbag, police said. The sandbag fell about 10:10 p.m. from the Indiana Avenue bridge and struck Mr. Byrd through a car windshield, police said.

The boys ran from the scene and went to buy candy, it was learned during their pleas. They walked back along the overpass, where they were met by police. They later learned the second sandbag drop caused the fatality.

“The two that pleaded [Friday] are not the two that threw the ultimate sandbag that caused the death of our victim in this case,” Ms. Olender said. “That’s why we decided with the family this was the appropriate resolution to this case — still a felony of the first-degree, still making sure that they were responsible at least complicity-wise in the death of our victim.”

Toledo police arrested the teens in the Dec. 19 injury and subsequent death of Mr. Byrd.

The teens remain held at the downtown juvenile detention center. Parents have declined interview requests.

Ms. Olender has said prosecutors are not seeking to try the youths as adults. They have essentially no record that would meet the threshold for their discretionary transfer, she said.

Hearings for the remaining two teens were continued.

Contact Allison Reamer at areamer@theblade.com, 419-724-6506, or on Twitter @AllisonRBlade.

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