LOCKPORT – Identical twins entered identical guilty pleas Thursday in the shooting death of a Niagara Falls man last summer.
Keon D. McTyere and Deon K. McTyere, 22, of Ninth Street in the Falls, each admitted to a reduced charge of first-degree manslaughter in connection with the Aug. 22 slaying of Fajri J. Hilson.
Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon agreed to sentence the twin brothers to between 18 and 20 years in prison, plus up to five years of post-release supervision, when they return to court July 28. They are being held without bail in the meantime.
Police said the brothers, each armed with a handgun, stood on opposite sides of a car in which Hilson was sitting, parked near Max’s Lounge, a bar owned by the twins’ father on Highland Avenue in the Falls.
Deon and Keon opened fire at about 1:45 a.m., and Hilson was shot 10 times. The killers then ran away, and a friend of Hilson’s drove the car to Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, where Hilson, 31, was pronounced dead. Authorities have not revealed a motive in the killing.
The unusual case involving suspects who were identical twins presented an array of challenges for prosecutors.
In the courtroom Thursday, Keon was dressed in an orange Niagara County Jail jumpsuit and Deon in a blue one, apparently to aid in telling them apart.
And last month, Sheldon ordered the brothers to give DNA samples for comparison to a sample taken from the door of Hilson’s car. But identical twins have identical DNA, which meant such evidence couldn’t clear up which twin was on which side of the car. However, the twins’ fingerprints are different, prosecutors said at the time.
The victim’s mother, Sheila Hilson, wept as Keon, who entered his plea first, answered the judge’s questions. When he pleaded guilty, the mother doubled over sobbing, and she stared at the floor during the rest of the court proceedings. She did not remain afterward to be interviewed.
Deputy District Attorney Holly E. Sloma said the plea offer had been approved by the Hilson family. She declined comment on why the offer was made or what the motive was for the crime.
David J. Mansour, Keon’s attorney, said the possibility of a plea bargain had been discussed for about a month.
Asked if he was satisfied with the outcome, Mansour said, “You’re never satisfied when someone goes to jail for 18 to 20 years.”
It could have been worse for the McTyeres. They faced potential sentences of life in prison if they had been convicted of second-degree murder in a trial scheduled to begin June 6.
“I think the family wanted a resolution of the whole thing, because it’s painful,” said Andrew C. LoTempio, Deon’s attorney. He said the brothers wanted a resolution, too.
“They’re both extremely intelligent, respectful people,” LoTempio said. As for the motive for the crime, LoTempio said that would come out at the sentencing.
“It wasn’t just a random assassination. There’s a story behind it,” he said.