Darius Sessoms, who was found guilty of fatally shooting 5-year-old Cannon Hinnant two years ago, was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole in a recent trial by a Wilson County judge.
The North Carolina man was initially charged with capital punishment but was able to avoid the death sentence under the Alford plea, which allowed him to maintain his innocence while acknowledging the prosecutors collect evidence for a conviction.
The shooting incident happened in August 2020. Hinnant was cycling around near his home when the convicted shot him. At that moment, Sessoms lived next to Cannon’s father, Austin Hinnant.
Hinnant, who was playing outside on Archer’s Road with his two older sisters, was taken to Wilson Medical Center. But, the 5-year-old child could not be saved and died in the hospital.
After the incident, police officers arrived at the death scene, and within 24 hours, they managed to arrest Sessoms.
As one of the trial participants, Hinnant’s mother, Bonny Parker, read a victim impact statement to the court at the sentencing.
Parker called Hinnant “my pride and joy,” when she was reading her statement. She said that Hinnant’s death made her and her family suffer for the rest of their lives.
“[Hinnant’s death] made us suffer for the rest of our lives.”
Bonny Parker, Cannon Hinnant’s mother
Aolani Pettit, Sessoms’ girlfriend at that time, attended the trial and pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. As the result, She was sentenced to four to 14 months.
When asked after the sentencing, Parker told the media that the judge’s decision bring peace to her family. However, She had previously begged the court to pursue the death sentence for Sessom. She said that she felt unfair unless Sessoms was sentenced to death by trial.
“[It] brings us a little bit of peace,” Parker said.
Parker described Hinnant has an “infectious smile” and personality. She said that she remembered him as a boy who loves to ride a bicycle.
“Knowing that we are walking out of here today and we don’t have to come back. We don’t have to see him. My girls do not have to testify in court. That was the whole reason why he took this plea. It was best for him to take this plea so it would not have to get our girls up there.”
“I want the death penalty and I will demand it.”
Bonny Parker, Cannon Hinnant’s mother
The recent trial showed a different response from Parker on her court appearance back on January 25. At that moment, Parker insisted that she will fight for Hinnant’s justice.
“I pray he gets the death penalty. We will fight for that till the end. That’s what we’re hoping for,” said Parker. “It would mean the closest we can get to justice for Cannon.”
At that time, Sessoms admitted that he was shooting Hinnant for the first time. Parker then told her feeling in public about seeing her son’s killer as the “hard” part.
“It’ll never bring my child back. But I want him to admit and stand up to what he done to my child,” Parker said. “It was hard walking in there and having to face someone who took my baby.”
Responding to the sentencing trial, Sessom’s parents said they believed their son was under the influence of drugs. They also insisted that Sessom was having hallucinations when shooting Hinnant to death.
Before his life sentence, Sessoms made his first court appearance in May 2022. He was charged by jury with first-degree murder and possession of a firearm in December 2021.
Back in 2020, a neighbor, Doris Lybrand, said that she witnessed Sessom run toward Hinnat and put the gun to his head. He later saw Sessom running back to his own house and thought Sessom was playing with Hinnant.
“My first reaction was he’s playing with the kids,” said Lybrand. “For a second, I thought, ‘That couldn’t happen.’ People don’t run across the street and kill kids.”
Days after the murder, a fundraising organization, GoFundMe, had collected a total of $800,000 for Hinnant’s funeral.