A man who pleaded guilty in March to second-degree murder and especially aggravated robbery has been sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Itiq Tivone Green was sentenced Thursday by Circuit Court Judge Tammy Harrington after a second day of hearings explored minute details in his case.
Green and his co-defendant Keshawn Lonnell Hopewell, 22, were charged in the July 25, 2017, killing of Caleb Radford, who died after he was stabbed six times in an incident on Topside Road.
Revealing details in the investigation were brought to the fore once again as prosecutors moved through a second day of calling witnesses and reviewing minutiae of that night’s events.
Radford’s family, including his mother, father and grandmother also gave impact statements pleading with the judge to give Green the maximum possible sentence for his involvement.
Defense attorney Rick Owens centered a portion of his analysis around the knife Green used to stab Radford as he tried to lessen the blow of six enhancing factors the state had brought against Green.
‘Please don’t kill me’
Prosecuting attorneys showed a video interview in which Alcoa Detective Jeff Parsons walked Green through the events of the murder.
In it, Green insisted he had been in the back seat of the car when Radford grabbed him by the shirt. Green said he used a flip knife with a glass-breaker on the handle to stab Radford in self-defense, a weapon he claimed he discarded moments later when he and Hopewell ran from the crime scene.
Investigators found a steak knife wrapped in a black latex glove in a backpack belonging to Green, but found no DNA evidence on the knife, Parsons confirmed in his testimony.
Parsons also said he had cooperated with a Blount County dive team to try and retrieve the knife Green said he had used. Green had been escorted to the scene during the investigation and pointed out where he had thrown the knife.
No flip knife like the one Green said he had used on Radford was found.
Defense also emphasized a certain pattern of blood on the interior ceiling of the car Radford had been driving that night.
A pattern termed “cast-off” by investigators showed blood spatters near the front interior of the vehicle, near where Hopewell had been sitting.
Green said he recalled Radford yelling as a tussle between him and Hopewell broke out. In the the heat of the struggle, Radford also yelled “Please don’t kill me,” Green said in the interview.
He added later that Hopewell seemed to have tried to take control of the car’s gear shift, which purportedly caused the car to go into the Topside Road ditch where it was later seen by a passer by who called 911.
The defense also focused on the nature of a wound to Radford’s forearm and whether or not it showed the weapon used could have been sharp on one side or if it was a double-sided knife.
The wound had pierced completely through Radford’s arm, a fact Harrington later said showed Green was not merely stabbing the 18-year-old in self-defense.
Green said repeatedly during the interview with Parsons that he had no idea what the meeting with Radford was supposed to be about but ultimately did not deny he knew it had something to do with getting money.
As he and Hopewell fled from the scene, Green said he recalled thinking to himself “I hope he okay.”
Mental health issues
Green’s mother, Clarissa McMillan, testified for the defense, providing a picture of her son’s life up to the murder.
McMillan — a consultant in upscale retail — said she and Green had moved around several times when he was a child and that he was diagnosed with ADHD at a young age. Green was convicted of a theft when he was in his teens for which he spent time in New York City’s jail complex on Riker’s island, his mother testified.
Green had been on and off medication for most of his life and his mother said she put him in special education classes because his mental condition limited his ability to comprehend words and situations.
Green is father to five children, McMillan said, and had struggled to stay employed due to his mental health issues.
His mother said that even though she had tried to raise Green in the best neighborhoods possible, Green would always gravitate toward areas with more crime.
Court records showed that Green had broken probation several times in the past and was in violation at the time of the murder.
Before her decision, Harrington said she had considered McMillan’s and other testimonies thoroughly. “I have listened to the mothers today who ... tried to speak on behalf of their children.”
But, she added, she was obligated to make her decision based on the law, not emotional factors.
“There is no doubt Mr. Green has had issues,” she said, adding later this might reduce his culpability, but not significantly.
After considering six enhancing factors introduced by the state and several mitigating factors presented by the defense, Harrington passed her ruling, sentencing Green to 40 years in prison.
Harrington said the murder that night had little to do with a drug sale.
“This was set up as a robbery and it was executed as a robbery.” She noted a Snapchat video replayed by the state which showed the four men involved that night yelling, laughing and waving money allegedly stolen from Radford.
The facts that Green participated in the robbery, tried to cover it up by throwing the knife in the river as he fled the scene and celebrated the theft gave weight to the court’s decision, Harrington said.
Moreover, the judge indicated Wright’s repeated disregard for his own legal standing played a significant role in the case’s outcome.
“The reason the court puts so much weight on the probation is because of his total disregard of the law,” Harrington said. “The law provides that the only punishment is a sentence of incarceration.”
Radford’s family embraced after the decision.
Hopewell’s sentencing hearing was set for June 28 during a May hearing when he also pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and especially aggravated robbery.
He also faces 25 to 40 years in prison.