05/12/09 — Man pleads guilty to second-degree murder

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Man pleads guilty to second-degree murder

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on May 12, 2009 1:46 PM

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Kelvin Buffalo Jr.

A man accused of shooting a young woman to death at her boyfriend's funeral pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Monday.

Kelvin Buffalo Jr., 20, stood accused of hiding a handgun under a funeral program, then walking slowly to a vehicle and firing at Sharon Sheppard.

Buffalo will spend between 28 and 35 years in prison for the killing.

The 20-year-old confessed Monday morning in front of Judge Jack Jenkins that he fired the shots that killed Ms. Sheppard, who had four children.

Police had called Ms. Sheppard's shooting an act of retribution.

On Monday, Assistant District Attorney Matt Delbridge more clearly defined what the state believed had happened.

"The events that brought us here today really started about four weeks before (the shooting)," Delbridge said. "That's when a young man named Raheim Kornegay was shot, an event that caused his demise."

At the time, "the word on the street," was that Buffalo's victim, Ms. Sheppard, had killed Kornegay, Delbridge said.

Buffalo was dating murder victim Raheim Kornegay's sister, the assistant district attorney said.

"The reason that Mr. Buffalo became involved in this particular situation, is he had a relationship with Mr. Kornegay's sister, they held each other as husband and wife, they had a family, and so on.

"So on the date of the funeral, Mr. Buffalo was at the funeral with his girlfriend, wife, significant other, Ms. Kornegay," the district attorney said. "And when the funeral began to wind down, they left and went outside.

"He approached an automobile occupied by the victim in this case, and as he approached it, he had a handgun that was being covered by a funeral pamphlet," Delbridge said.

"He walked up to the car and discharged three gunshots into the vehicle, which struck Ms. Sheppard and ultimately caused her death," Delbridge said.

Witnesses told police, who were already looking at Ms. Sheppard as a "person of interest" in the death of Raheim Kornegay, that Ms. Sheppard's shooter had run away.

"The person who shot the gunshots, ran away, ran down some railroad tracks," Delbridge said.

Police followed the trail and found a funeral pamphlet from Kornegay's funeral, which Delbridge said had one fingerprint on it, which police connected to Buffalo.

The district attorney said there was also an eyewitness in the car who both saw the shooting and later identified Buffalo from a series of pictures.

Buffalo offered police an alibi, Delbridge said, but it did not check out.

"The alibi did not support what the defendant said had happened," Delbridge said.

The district attorney and Buffalo's court-appointed attorney indicated that the plea arrangement had been worked out before the appearance.

Judge Jack W. Jenkins asked the defendant the questions he is required to ask by law after hearing Buffalo would plead guilty as part of a deal with prosecutors.

Buffalo said he was satisfied with his court-appointed attorney, that he was not intoxicated, that he had a right to a trial by jury, and that there was an aggravating factor in the case.

The aggravating factor was that Ms. Sheppard's killing occurred while Buffalo was on pre-trial release for another offense, felonious assault inflicting serious bodily injury, which occurred in July 2004, the assistant district attorney said.

The state had some early assurance that Buffalo would appear in court, according to police records.

Buffalo was picked up on a probation violation, according to Goldsboro police records, and jailed under $10,000 bond.

Carol Sheppard, the victim's mother, was allowed to address the court during sentencing.

"I just want to ask him why did he kill my daughter. She had four children that she left behind that ... haven't done anything to him. I just want to know why," Mrs. Sheppard said.