A pair of Rock Hill teens are charged with the shooting deaths of two Rock Hill friends in January in an execution-style ambush that happened because one of the victims had “snitched” to police on another case, police said in court Wednesday.
Jon’Tarius Delmone Reid, 18, and Kelvin Barnette Jr., 18, each are charged with two counts of murder, according to police and court documents and Lt. Michael Chavis of the Rock Hill Police Department.
The victims were identified as Zyon Minton, 17, and Digarian Foster, 18. They died at Piedmont Medical Center after being shot around 7 p.m. Jan. 23, police and York County coroner officials said.
Minton and Foster were in a yard on Byars Street near Friedheim Road southeast of downtown Rock Hill when they were shot.
Police: Real life ‘snitches get stitches’
In court Wednesday afternoon, Rock Hill police Detective Robert Smith said Foster and Minton were shot several times each in an ambush by the suspects who had been friends with the victims and had known them for years.
“The defendants were involved in a conspiracy to execute them at close range,” Smith told Rock Hill City Court Judge Jane Modla in the first court appearance for both suspects. “They (victims) were ambushed and killed in cold blood. No arguments, no fighting.”
Foster and Minton were outside Foster’s home Jan. 23 warming themselves by a fire when they were attacked, Smith said in court.
Smith said Foster, one of the victims, had talked to police in May 2020 in an ongoing investigation. Word spread that Foster had assisted police, Smith said in court.
“Mr. Foster was honest with law enforcement,” Smith said of the victim. “He lost friendships because of that incident and was labeled a snitch because of that incident because Mr. Foster had broken the ‘code of silence.’ “
The suspects found out about Foster’s cooperation with police, Smith said in court. Smith said there is a saying on the streets that “snitches get stitches,” because of threats and acts of violence against people who stand up and talk to police.
Minton, the other victim, remained friends with Foster even after some labeled Foster a snitch, Smith said in court.
Minton had met with a guidance counselor the day before he was killed, and worked on school work just hours before he died in an attempt to graduate high school, Smith said.
Victims’ families irate at killings
Clayton Adams, Foster’s grandfather, said he and his grandson knew the suspects for years. The suspects were supposed to be friends with Foster, Adams said.
“These guys have come to my house with him ever since they was young,” Adams said in court. “It hurt me to my heart because I know these guys. That they would do this to my grandson. You see that in the movies. … God forgive me, but I cannot forgive and I will not forgive.”
Keia Gordon, mother of the other victim, Zyon Minton, said in court her life and her son’s life were destroyed. Gordon said she will not rest until there is justice for her son.
“The question I have today is why?” Gordon said in court. “I want justice. … Something so small, so petty. My child was going to graduate across that stage.”
Suspects stay in jail, could face death penalty
Reid, one of the suspects, had been in the York County Jail since Feb. 10 on other charges including illegal possession of a handgun and violation of probation from a previous conviction, York County court records show.
Reid said nothing in court Wednesday about the allegations of an execution-style killing. Reid was assigned a public defender to represent him.
Barnette was arrested Tuesday, police said. Barnette did not say anything in court Wednesday except to say he would hire a private lawyer to defend him.
The suspects face a minimum of 60 years to life in prison if convicted of both killings.
Under South Carolina law, suspects in an incident where more than one person is killed could face a death penalty trial. A case involving multiple victims is considered to have aggravating factors for prosecutors to consider when seeking capital punishment, state law shows.
Modla, the Rock Hill judge, denied bond for Reid and Barnette. Both suspects will await trial in the York County Jail, Modla said in court.
Killings were two of three deaths within hours
The killings of Minton and Foster were not the only shooting deaths in the area on Jan. 23. A South Carolina teen rapper named Paul Harts, 19, who went by the stage name 18veno, was killed nearby on the same night.
About two hours after the teens were gunned down, Harts was killed after a shootout inside a car on McShea Drive in York County just outside the Rock Hill city limits. A Fairfield County teen is charged with manslaughter and a Rock Hill man is charged with murder and drug charges in that case.
Sheriff Kevin Tolson said the McShea Drive killing involved illegal drugs. Tolson said the investigation into Harts’ death remains ongoing.
Police and sheriff’s office officials have not linked the two homicide cases.
The late January shootouts in both sets of killings prompted a public stop the violence vigil that was held Jan. 26 in downtown Rock Hill.
The homicides were the second and third in Rock Hill in 2021. An 82-year-old man died in January after he was beaten during a New Year’s Day home invasion, police and coroner officials said. That case remains unsolved.