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17-year-old boy accused of fatally shooting Zaria McKeever to be tried as adult

Teen to be tried as adult in murder of Zaria McKeever
Teen to be tried as adult in murder of Zaria McKeever 01:46

MINNEAPOLIS — A 17-year-old boy accused of shooting and killing Zaria McKeever on behalf of her ex-boyfriend in November of 2022 will be tried as an adult.

Foday Kamara was 15 when McKeever's ex-boyfriend Erick Haynes allegedly handed him a gun and told him, along with his brother, to beat up McKeever's new boyfriend.

Haynes, who has been indicted on first-degree murder, had been threatening and harassing 23-year-old McKeever for days, according to charging documents. McKeever was the mother of his 1-year-old child, and he was upset that their relationship had ended. 

Kamara told investigators that he and his brother entered McKeever's Brooklyn Park apartment looking for McKeever's boyfriend. He tried to get past McKeever, but she approached him with a knife. Documents say that Kamara then shot McKeever nine times, and shot his brother once in the foot before the two fled the apartment and met up with Haynes.

McKeever's boyfriend was able to escape out of the bathroom window and call 911. By the time investigators arrived, McKeever had died.

Kamara was originally given a plea deal by Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty in return for testifying against Haynes and two other adults who took Kamara's brother to the hospital after the shooting. McKeever's family was dissatisfied with the decision, and argued that justice had not been served.

RELATED: Controversy pits attorneys against each other in Zaria McKeever murder case

Gov. Tim Walz then assigned Attorney General Keith Ellison to take over prosecution of the case, marking the first time in 30 years that the Minnesota AG's office took over a criminal case without the greenlight from the county attorney.

Moriarty called the takeover "undemocratic" and a "dangerous precedent." 

Kamara now faces two counts of second-degree murder. He will make his first court appearance on Wednesday.

Kamara may never see a trial, as he appears to be heading towards another plea deal.

Joe Tamburino, an attorney not associated with the case, points to how Kamara agreed to be tried as an adult.

"That means a deal is in the works," Tamburino said. "Nobody just walks up and waives [adult] certification [proceedings] because you're exposing your client, the juvenile, to a lot more [prison] time."

There's also a plea hearing scheduled later this week, which Tamburino says means a plea bargain is "guaranteed."

Kamara's lawyer tells WCCO, "We are set for a plea at some point in the near future."

Tamburino says a deal likely means less prison time than what state sentencing guidelines say for Kamara's murder charges.

"For the defendant to do all this, it must mean it's a pretty good deal for him," Tamburino said.

About Kamara being tried as an adult, the Hennepin County Attorney's Office said:

"Based on the Attorney General's prior comments that even a 15-year-old who 'commits such a horrible murder should serve years in prison' it was clear they would seek adult certification and decades in prison. So it's not a surprise that Mr. Kamara now faces adult charges carrying a presumptive sentence of 25 years. We continue to believe the best outcome would be to hold him accountable in a way that protects the public and accounts for his age and extensive history of trauma. Seeking the treatment exclusively available in the juvenile system would have achieved that because it would reduce his likelihood of reoffending in the future."

For anonymous, confidential help, people can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224.

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