Birmingham Homicide Dec. 17, 2020
A former UAB football player convicted in the slaying of Birmingham nursing student Destiny Washington has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Carlos Stephens, 24, was convicted in April of capital murder in the 2020 shooting death of 20-year-old Destiny Washington.
The shooting happened on UAB’s campus during the sale of $90 AirPods. Stephens claimed he fired in self-defense after Washington’s boyfriend pulled a gun first.
“This case was tragic on so many levels,’’ Jefferson County Circuit Judge Kechia Davis said at Wednesday’s sentencing hearing.
“My hope, my prayer for you is that this brings some type of closure to this. There were a lot of prayers that went forth on both sides during that week and I witnessed that.”
“While you were praying, I was praying as well,’’ the judge said.
“This is so sad for me because two young lives were taken from Jefferson County. Two young Black lives, and I feel like they were both on the road to being very successful – Destiny Washington and Mr. Stephens.”
“It saddens me to have to give this sentence. It saddens me to have to look at you, Mrs. Washington, knowing everything Destiny had going in her life, but I’m praying for both families,’’ Davis said.
“I’m praying for you as well,’’ she said to Stephens.
“I really thank y’all for the way you conducted yourselves in love throughout the entire trial,’' she said to both families.
“We felt the presence of love with both families, and I appreciate that.’’
Carlos Stephens (Birmingham Police Department)
Stephens was represented by attorneys Emory Anthony and Bobby Lendell Davis.
Jefferson County Deputy District Attorneys Jessica Hebson and Ashley Patterson prosecuted the case.
Washington was shot to death at 9:40 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020, in the parking lot of UAB’s student center on University Boulevard.
The deadly shooting happened during the sale of a pair of $90 AirPods that Washington’s boyfriend was selling to Stephens’ girlfriend, a deal that had been brokered through Facebook Marketplace earlier that day.
The transaction went sour amid accusations of counterfeit money and fake AirPods and ended with a deadly shot fired by Stephens.
Stephens, a former standout football player at Thompson High School who went on to play at UAB his freshman year, surrendered to police two days later.
Washington’s parents, Randy and Tora Washington, stood before the court Wednesday and delivered an emotional impact statement, at one point addressing Stephens.
“Destiny did not get a choice on Dec. 17, 2020. The choice that you made on that night to discharge a gun toward her vehicle comes with consequences,’’ Tora Washington said.
“It may not be a consequence that you think is fair, but your parents will get a chance to hear your voice, see your face, and hug you. I will never get to do those things again with Destiny on this earth.”
“I want you to know not only did that bullet you fired take Destiny’s life,’’ she said, “but a piece of my heart was taken as well.”
Randy and Tora Washington, parents of slain nursing student Destiny Washington, awarded the first Destiny Washington Memorial Nursing Scholarship to Tarrant High senior Madison Rogers. Destiny was also remembered Friday at Lawson State's graduation. (Special to AL.com)
Tora Washington said her daughter was set to graduate with her nursing degree from Lawson State in May of 2021.
She was in a dual enrollment program at UAB and was looking forward to furthering her education at UAB.
“She knew at an early age that she wanted to help people,’’ she said. “For career day at age 6 – she dressed the part. She wanted to a nurse. She was a people person and did not mind helping anyone.”
“Destiny was a beautiful spirt with big smile that would light up a room when she entered,’’ Tora Washington said.
“We cannot explain the heartache and pain we endure daily. I miss her texting daily just to say I love you. Her dad misses his baby girl running into the house just to give him a hug.”
Tora Washington said her daughter’s boyfriend, Keyuntae Moultrie, has also been affected.
“This tragedy left Keonte in a place where life will never be the same for him. He would have never, and has stated from Day 1, put Destiny in harm’s way,’’ she said. “And I as Destiny’s mother believe he would not do anything to jeopardize Destiny’s life.”
“Yes, we are angry because we want our daughter here, living her life, doing what she wanted to do,’’ she said. “I know that God teaches forgiveness and I’m praying and striving to grow in that area daily.”
“I wish this heartache, pain and experience on no other parent,’’ she said. “This is a tough battle.”
The family of Carlos Stephens, convicted of capital murder in the death of Destiny Washington, prayed outside the Jefferson County courthouse after Stephens was sentenced May 18, 2022, to life in prison without the possibility of parole. (Carol Robinson)
Prosecutors in trial contended Stephens should be convicted of capital murder in Washington’s death, calling it a senseless, unreasonable and unnecessary act of violence.
They indicated to the jury that they believed Stephens was angry that Washington’s boyfriend was 30 minutes late arriving to their meeting and angry at what followed – which included Moultrie trying to sell Stephens a pair of fake AirPods, raising the previously agreed-upon price and then accusing Stephens of paying with counterfeit money.
Stephens’ attorneys, however, claimed their client fired in self-defense only after Washington’s boyfriend pulled a gun on him and threatened to “blow him away.”
Family members for both Washington and Stephens packed the courtroom during the April trial and returned Wednesday for sentencing.
Following sentencing, more than a dozen of Stephens’ family members were allowed to hug him and briefly speak with him one at a time.
Afterward, they gathered outside of the courthouse in a large circle of prayer, and said they are putting their trust in God.
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Birmingham Homicide Dec. 17, 2020