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Crime

No early release for man convicted of conspiracy in 2017 killing of 13-year-old Baltimore County girl

Friends and family of Iyanna Watkins, 13, held a prayer and candlelight vigil behind a 7-Eleven store on Peterson Road in Middle River where she was shot and killed in 2017.

A man convicted of conspiracy in the 2017 killing of a 13-year-old girl behind a Middle River 7-Eleven store won’t be released early from prison, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Alphonso Smith III, now 23 years old, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit murder in 2020 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison last November. He appeared in court Tuesday with his attorney seeking a modified sentence and release from prison for time served.

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Attorney James Dills said the killing of 13-year-old Iyanna Watkins was a “tragedy” but said Smith had been targeted while locked up and was on a “road to redemption” since the July 2017 killing.

Family of both Smith and Watkins spoke during the hearing, with Watkins’ sister urging the judge to order Smith to serve the time he’d agreed to. Prosecutors also opposed the sentence being changed.

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Baltimore County Circuit Judge Robert E. Cahill Jr. agreed Smith would not be released early. Cahill called Smith’s sentence “fair and reasonable.”

Smith was not the shooter, according to officials. Roger L. Eastmond Jr. pleaded guilty in October to first-degree murder and was sentenced in December to 30 years in prison for his role in Watkins’ death.

Watkins was shot and killed July 31, 2017, while sitting with a group of people behind a 7-Eleven near Peterson Road. Two others were also shot and wounded. Police said in charging documents that the shooting took place after a fight earlier in the day involving Smith, and that he warned at least one person to leave the 7-Eleven before the shooting.

Friends and family remembered her at a vigil following her killing as someone special. Her mother, Chanel Gaskins, mourned that her daughter would never be able to start high school, go to a job interview or have her own family.

Smith didn’t speak at Tuesday’s hearing, except to apologize to her family for what happened.


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