Two more adults have been charged in connection with the Brooklyn Park home invasion that killed 23-year-old Zaria McKeever, a case that has sparked outrage among her family for what they view as a lack of accountability for the juveniles accused of carrying out the shooting at the behest of a jealous ex-boyfriend.
Charges were filed Friday morning against associates of Erick Dewaun Haynes, the 22-year-old charged with intentional second-degree murder for his role in orchestrating the Nov. 8 attack. That night two teenage brothers kicked in the door and confronted McKeever, charges say, before the 15-year-old gunman fired five rounds that proved fatal. As of Friday, three adults and two minors have been charged in the case.
Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty announced the additional charges in a three-minute press conference, but did not name the suspects or detail the charges. She took no questions from the media after reading a written statement on the case that she said illustrates the pervasiveness of intimate partner violence.
"Domestic violence requires a strong and multifaceted response. Part of that response must be aggressive prosecution, especially when people commit escalating acts of domestic violence-related conduct and inflict devastation on families in our community," she said. "We are committed to supporting victims and their families by meeting them where they are and connecting them to the resources they will undoubtedly need."
Afterward her office identified the suspects as Haynes' sister, Eriana Dewauna Haynes, and her boyfriend, Tavion Michael Darnell James. They are charged with aiding an offender-accomplice after the fact.
Criminal complaints accuse the couple, both 24, of helping 17-year-old John Kamara seek medical treatment for a gunshot wound sustained when his younger brother unloaded his weapon during the break-in. Under questioning from police at the hospital, the couple provided intentionally false, misleading information that obstructed early stages of the investigation, prosecutors allege.
Police say the couple lied when they said Kamara was shot in north Minneapolis "in an attempt to protect Erick Haynes" and the teens from becoming suspects in the killing, according to the charges.
Eriana Haynes and her boyfriend were staying in the same hotel room as Erick Haynes the night of the home invasion, charges say. She is further accused of lending her car to the teens so they could drive to McKeever's home and back to the hotel. When the boys returned to the hotel, the couple drove Kamara to the hospital and "a story was concocted to cover up the murder."
The charges say they continued to provide false statements to police hours later in interviews at the Brooklyn Park police station. As of Friday afternoon, they were not yet in custody.
The announcement brought little relief to McKeever's family, who believe Moriarty's decision-making has resulted in a miscarriage of justice for survivors, especially the 1-year-old daughter McKeever left behind.
"We've been asking for these charges since the beginning. They did know, before and after the fact," said McKeever's sister, Tiffynnie Epps. "You're finally doing your job, but we had to apply pressure just for you to do it."
Prosecutors originally moved to certify the teens as adults so they could stand trial alongside Haynes. But last month, Moriarty abruptly changed course, offering the teens a plea deal that would avoid a lengthy adult prison sentence in exchange for their testimony against Haynes.
The older teen accepted that deal during a court hearing March 8. He is expected to serve 18 to 24 months at the juvenile correctional facility in Red Wing before being released on extended probation. Violating the terms of his probation could trigger an immediate trip to adult prison, where he'd serve up to 12 years.
McKeever's relatives were so incensed by the perceived act of leniency that they are asking Gov. Tim Walz to appoint Attorney General Keith Ellison to the case.
"We as a family and community do not have trust that the handling of Erick Haynes's case will be treated as serious and have great concerns that he too will have a plea deal that does not fit this heinous crime," reads the online petition launched last week. It has generated more than 1,300 signatures.
Ellison said in a statement to the Star Tribune his office "stands prepared to help in any way."
"We believe we could assist by bringing some sense of comfort and confidence to the family," Ellison said.
In an interview this month, Moriarty defended her decision, noting that she weighed a multitude of factors, including the boys' age, lack of criminal record and Haynes' outsized role in the murder. Haynes has a history of violating domestic no-contact orders against McKeever, who was the mother of his child.
"Everybody is in disbelief that a plea was offered under these circumstances," Epps said. "This case needs to be taken from you — and it will be."