CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The man who shot and killed Capital High School student “KJ” Taylor last year pleaded guilty Wednesday less than a week before he was scheduled to go on trial.
Dekotis Thomas, 20, of St. Albans, entered a Kennedy Plea to first-degree murder. A second murder charge in a separate case was dropped as part of the plea agreement.
A Kennedy plea allows Thomas to accept punishment for the crime without having to give the judge details of what happened.
Kanawha County Assistant Prosecutor Adam Petry told Kanawha County Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit the state’s evidence would have shown that it was Thomas who was driving a truck on the West Side of Charleston on April 7, 2021, when he fired several shots. The shots struck Taylor and claimed his life, Petry said.
“The defendant was driving that vehicle and shot out of the window of that vehicle,” Petry said.
Petry later told MetroNews the shots were meant for someone else.
“There was another intended target there that was standing in close proximity to KJ. KJ was just the unfortunate recipient of what Dekotis did that day. It was intended for another individual,” Petry said.
Thomas told Tabit no one forced him to enter the plea agreement.
“Did you do that freely and voluntarily?” Tabit asked.
“Yes ma’am,” Thomas said.
Thomas’ attorney Joey Spano told MetroNews following the hearing that he presented all the state’s evidence to his client and Thomas made the decision to take the plea deal prosecutor’s offered.
“It’s never my decision to make. It’s the defendant’s decision to make and when we went over all of the evidence in the case which was voluminous, probably the most evidence I’ve seen in the case, I’m not saying against him but the amount (of evidence), that’s his decision to make,” Spano said.
Spano, who met with Thomas four separate times Tuesday and Wednesday, said Tabit’s decision last week to allow the prosecution to present evidence at trial that showed Thomas fled to Akron, Ohio after the shooting also played a role in Thomas’ decision to enter a plea.
“That was coming in and that was one of the factors. There was numerous evidence. In this case there were 197 DVDs of evidence plus reports,” Spano said. “Charleston police did a lot of leg work in this case before they indicted him.”
Prosecutors dropped murder charges against Thomas in a 2019 shooting death in Charleston as part of the plea. Thomas allegedly shot and killed 28-year-old Antwan Curnell of Dunbar on Interstate 77 at the northbound Westmoreland Road exit.
The prosecution will also stand silent at sentencing. Judge Tabit will decide whether Thomas receives life with mercy or a life sentence with no chance for parole.
Tabit granted a motion from Spano Wednesday to allow for a forensic sentencing evaluation of Thomas.
“This is done by a psychologist and it’s a little more in-depth describing the defendant’s whole life history,” Spano said.
Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 7 at 11 a.m.
Taylor, 18, was a well-known student at Capital High who starred in both football and basketball.