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Foday Kamara knew his victim.

He'd eaten at her table. Been welcomed on family outings. Even attended her daughter's 1st birthday party.

Yet, when given a chance to turn down his grim assignment, the 15-year-old failed to say, "No." On Nov. 8, 2022, Kamara repeatedly shot Zaria McKeever in her boyfriend's Brooklyn Park apartment during an early morning break-in, orchestrated by her jealous ex.

"Zaria trusted him enough to think that she could talk to him and ask him to leave," McKeever's older sister, Tiffynnie Epps, said of Kamara during an emotional sentencing Wednesday morning, the third such hearing grieving relatives have endured.

Hennepin County District Judge William Koch accepted Kamara's guilty plea to aiding and abetting second-degree intentional murder and sentenced him to 10 years in prison, capping the McKeever family's yearslong quest for justice in a high-profile case that prompted intense community debate about how to best hold juvenile offenders accountable.

Under his plea deal with the state, Kamara, now 17, will serve 130 months for his role in the killing, which he committed alongside his older brother John Kamara. He is expected to spend about six months at a juvenile detention facility in Red Wing, then transfer to Lino Lakes' Youthful Offender Program.

Assistant Attorney General Leah Erickson said prosecutors agreed to a downward departure in this case given Kamara's age and willingness to testify against Erick Haynes, the 23-year-old man who plotted the attack. But Haynes pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in March, avoiding a lengthy trial, and was sentenced to life in prison last month.

Erickson noted that Kamara was manipulated by Haynes, who convinced Kamara that he would serve "five years tops if they got caught."

That lack of accountability was a key factor in his decision to participate, she said. However, Foday Kamara's actions that day — shooting McKeever five times, including at "point blank range in the head as she laid prone in a hallway closet" — necessitated a significant period of incarceration.

"That was no accident," Erickson said, as McKeever's relatives sobbed in the gallery.

Michael Holland, Kamara's public defender, sought to cast him as a reformed young man who was ready to take responsibility for the irreparable harm he'd caused.

"He was small and scared and didn't have adequate support guiding him through those tender years of young adulthood," Holland told the court, nodding to an upbringing that left Kamara vulnerable to coercion. "He was taken advantage of and he lacked the insight and maturity to put a stop to the course of events that led to Miss McKeever's death. That is not who he is today."

Upon hearing the speech, McKeever's cousin, Lance Windom Sr., scoffed and abruptly left the courtroom.

"The next time this community sees Foday," Holland continued, "he will be wiser, will be kinder, and in his own words, 'a better person.'"

Kamara sat quietly, dressed in a button-down shirt and tie, eyes fixed ahead. He did not speak beyond answering 'yes' or 'no' questions from the judge. His attorney made a statement on his behalf, apologizing directly to McKeever's family:

"Even though I didn't want to hurt Zaria that night, I know I hurt her and your family in the worst way possible," Holland said. "She was a good person who didn't deserve to be killed."

Haynes had a history of violating domestic no-contact orders against McKeever, the mother of his child. He repeatedly stalked and harassed her in the days before her death, angry that she had starting seeing another man.

Under the cover of darkness, Haynes drove the Kamara brothers to the Eden Park apartment complex, where he armed them with a 9-millimeter handgun and ordered them inside.

They broke down the door, intending to confront her new boyfriend, but McKeever refused to move out of the way. Foday later told investigators that he shot at the wall several times trying to scare her. She responded by charging at him with a knife. That's when Foday unleashed a flurry of shots, fatally wounding McKeever.

Haynes acted as their getaway driver.

The ordeal effectively robbed their young daughter, ZaNay-Dior, of both parents in a single day.

In victim impact statements before the court, McKeever's relatives lamented the gaping hole that her death left in their family. Epps recalled the sadness of having to correct her 2½-year-old niece when she mistakenly calls her mommy.

"I don't want her to forget who her mom is," McKeever's sister said while appearing via Zoom. "Her mother's killer will be walking freely when she is entering middle school. She will be traumatized all over again. We will be traumatized forever."

Paul Greer, McKeever's stepfather, read a joint statement on behalf of himself and McKeever's mother, Maria, acknowledging that their daughter would not want them to live with hate in their hearts.

"I also pray that there will be divine intervention for his heart to be changed so by the time he is released, no one else will have to endure this same fate by the act of his hands," Greer said via Zoom, as smiling photos of McKeever played on a loop on a giant TV in the courtroom.

The adult criminal conviction marks a hard-fought victory for state prosecutors one year after Attorney General Keith Ellison removed the case from Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty amid intense public backlash.

At Ellison's request, Gov. Tim Walz took the extremely rare step of reassigning the case after Walz and Ellison agreed with McKeever's family that the initial plea offer was too lenient.

Moriarty offered Kamara a deal to avoid adult prison and adult certification. Instead, he would have served about a two-year sentence at the juvenile correctional facility in Red Wing and extended probation until his 21st birthday.

Attorneys have negotiated Kamara's case since the prosecution changed hands. His older brother's case wrapped up more quickly; John Kamara accepted the same plea deal offer from Moriarty before the state intervened.

All five of the people involved in McKeever's death have now pleaded guilty to taking part in the slaying or protecting Haynes after the fact.

Haynes' sister and brother-in-law are charged with felony aiding an offender after the fact. Koch conditionally accepted guilty pleas from Eriana and Tavion James, both 24, last month hours after Haynes pleaded guilty.

On Wednesday, Judge Koch instructed Kamara to take advantage of all educational opportunities and therapeutic services he could during his time behind bars.

"In a very tragic, ironic way, her death has given your life more purpose perhaps than it did before — and more responsibility," he said. "Every day, you need to be thinking about how you can make things better, not only for yourself, but for the people around you."

Kamara will spend roughly seven years in prison after accounting for time already served. In Minnesota, those sentenced to prison spend two-thirds of the sentence in custody and one-third under supervision.

McKeever's family members emerged from the courtroom wiping their eyes, incredulous about the outcome. "This is sick!" Windom Sr. declared.

He told the Star Tribune he'd walked out earlier because he couldn't bear to hear the defense downplay Kamara's premeditated actions.

"He murdered her," Windom said. "What happens if the the baby was there?... I can't comprehend this."