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Friday, 28 August 2015 13:38

Teen Pleads Guilty in Contractor’s Murder

Multi-Agency Gang Unit Western District of Tennessee Multi-Agency Gang Unit Western District of Tennessee
MEMPHIS – August 28, 2015 - A 17-year-old defendant pleaded guilty Friday morning to killing contractor John “J. P.” Shelley two years ago and was sentenced to 30 years in prison with no parole, Shelby County Dist. Atty. Gen. Amy Weirich said Friday.
Derek Cunningham Jr. entered a plea to second-degree murder before Criminal Court Judge W. Mark Ward who approved the negotiated settlement of the case.
The shooting occurred Oct. 4, 2013, in the 4700 block of Scottsdale Ave. in Parkway Village where Shelley, a contractor, was meeting with construction worker Octavio Sanchez to discuss refurbishing a home.
They were confronted by two gunmen, later identified as Cunningham and Corey Sandifer, who robbed Shelley of his cellphone, an iPad and cash. Sanchez was robbed of his wallet and cash.
During the holdup, Cunningham shot Shelley in the neck, killing him.
Cunningham, who was 15 at the time of the shooting, was charged with first-degree murder in the perpetration of a robbery. He was scheduled to be tried Monday.
Second-degree murder is a knowing and intentional killing of another.
Co-defendants Sandifer and Thomas Moss, both 18, also face murder charges in the case for their roles in the holdup. Their cases are pending.
Shelley, 42, was married and was the father of two children.
“I’m so thankful that our family has been spared the horror and uncertainty of a trial,” his widow, Beverly Shelley, said in a statement after Friday’s court session. “I truly appreciate the hard work and long hours put in by the prosecutors and the Memphis Police Department. I pray that I can honor JP’s life and our children by making a difference in the lives of juvenile offenders in Memphis.”
The case was handled by Ray Lepone, chief prosecutor of the DA’s Multi-Agency Gang Prosecution Unit, and by Asst. Dist. Atty. Neal Oldham, also of the special unit that handles homicide cases and other violent crimes associated with gang activity, specific targeted gang members and special cases assigned by the District Attorney General.
The prosecution team works daily with the MGU Operations team, using local ordinances and state and federal laws to hold offenders accountable.
About half of the unit’s caseload involves of homicides, with the rest involving violent crimes such as aggravated robberies, kidnappings, rapes, attempted murders and narcotics cases.