An ex-Fort Carson soldier was sentenced Friday to life in prison in the killing of a 20-year-old man who was blasted with birdshot during a robbery spree in Security-Widefield.
A jury deliberated for roughly five hours before convicting Wayne Sellers IV of all counts — including first-degree murder — in the October 2018 slaying of Kenyatta Horne.
“He helped take a life from us that we can never get back,” said the victim’s mother, Jakki Horne, in asking for the maximum sentence.
After a two-week trial, 4th Judicial District Judge Lin Billings Vela went straight to sentencing, imposing the mandatory life term and also the maximum 32 years for a robbery committed earlier that night.
Prosecutors say Sellers, 21, was part of a five-man crew that went out for a night of “hitting licks” — or robbing people — when they arranged a phony drug deal with Horne. After agreeing to meet Horne outside his parents’ house in Security-Widefield, Sellers and another man — Tyler Wheeler — launched an ambush, authorities told a jury. Horne died of wounds from a single shotgun blast.
The shooting occurred in the 6400 block of Tranters Creek Way in the Lorson Ranch subdivision. Authorities say Horne had a gun at his side.
The two-week trial could also have severe consequences for one of Sellers’ co-defendants, Beslim Torres Valle. Prosecutors say Valle violated his promise to testify truthfully about the killing and to take the stand.
Valle grew up near Horne, and is accused of supplying his name as a target and calling him to arrange a phone drug deal that served as the basis for an ambush.
Valle did not testify, however, and prosecutors filed a recent motion asking a judge to cancel his plea agreement, potentially placing him on track to be prosecuted for first-degree murder, with its automatic life sentence.
A hearing to hash out Valle’s fate is set for Oct. 21, a day before a first-degree murder trial is set to begin for Tyler Wheeler, allegedly the ringleader and the man who fired that shotgun that night.
Another co-defendant, Kyle Watts, pleaded guilty to serving as the driver that day. He faces 15-22 years in prison. At the time of his arrest, Watts, 19, was an active-duty Air Force chef at F.E Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyo. An update wasn’t available.
Sellers’ attorneys say he tried to halt his participation in the robbery plot after the first heist of the night went bad in an alley behind a 7-Eleven. They pointed out that when Wheeler, the alleged ring leader, suggested doing “one more lick,” Sellers reported responded “no” and told someone he wasn’t “’bout it.”
But evidence established that Sellers took up a position giving him a clear shot at Horne during an apparent ambush — and that he fired 11 rounds from a handgun he called “Bessie,” though none hit Horne.
In contrast with those actions, Sellers’ hedging fell short of what the law requires to abandon a conspiracy — “complete and voluntary renunciation” of all criminal activity.
Even if he were scared, Sellers could have stopped at Starbucks or 7-Eleven, which were located near the scene of their first robbery that night, or just used his cellphone to summon a ride.
Sellers’ attorneys, Jennifer Stock and Matthew Werner, also argued that Sellers fired in self-defense after Horne started the violence. Prosecutors countered that self-defense provisions aren’t meant to protect people while they are committing armed robbery.
“Obviously, we are very disappointed with the verdict,” Stock said. “Mr. Sellers is intent on pursuing an appeal.”
Horne’s aunt said the life sentence was fitting.
“His family can still talk to him. We can’t talk to ours,” Dorothy Laster said.