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What you need to know for 11/18/2017

Man convicted of killing 17-year-old Schenectady mother

Man convicted of killing 17-year-old Schenectady mother

19-year-old now faces 27 years to life
Man convicted of killing 17-year-old Schenectady mother
Raekwon Stover stands as a Schenectady County jury reads its guilty verdict Thursday, June 15, 2017.
Photographer: Steven Cook

SCHENECTADY -- A jury Thursday morning swiftly convicted Raekwon Stover on all counts for the murder last year of Medina Knowles

The jury came back with its verdict after a little more than an hour of total deliberations.

Stover, 19, now faces a possible sentence in excess of 27 years to life in state prison.

Knowles' mother, Tyesha Murray, gave an audible gasp as the verdict was read, according to those present.

The jury had to read the verdict twice, due to an error on the initial verdict sheet. The courtroom remained quiet after the jury returned and read the corrected verdict sheet.

The jury began deliberations late Wednesday afternoon, after first hearing closing arguments in the case. Prosecutor Christina Tremante-Pelham used testimony and text messages to portray Stover as a man who was controlling of Knowles, 17. He also was a man who sold her as a prostitute online.

Stover shot and killed Knowles Sept. 15 in her bedroom at the Schenectady Street apartment she shared with her family, prosecutors alleged. 

Stover had grown angry as Knowles tried to stop working as a prostitute for him. She was missing client appointments and had begun to look for a job, prosecutors said.

Stover's attorney, Adam Parisi, attempted in his closing arguments to pull apart various aspects of the case. He left after the verdict without commenting. 

For Tremante-Pelham, the jury's short deliberation was telling.

"I think the timing of the verdict shows that, in the end, we put forth overwhelming evidence to show his guilt in this case," Tremante-Pelham said later Thursday morning.

She cited evidence collected by city police after the murder, the state police processing of data from cellphones and work by the district attorney's investigators as contributing to the strong case.

The investigation continued into recent weeks, as investigators located a witness who led them to a box of bullets behind a garage. The witness linked the bullets to Stover.

Prosecutors also offered testimony from a jail inmate who said Stover confessed to the killing. The inmate offered details not available publicly, including that Knowles missed an arranged sex-for-money encounter that evening, referencing in her excuse the kind of dinner she had that night.

"There was no way he could know these things were it not a conversation with the defendant," said prosecutor Kyle Petit, who assisted Tremante-Pelham in the case.

Among the most telling pieces of testimony, Tremante-Pelham said, was from a neighbor who testified to hearing Knowles cry out "Mommy! Mom!" just before a gunshot was heard.

"I thought Medina Knowles' words were the most powerful in the case because they tell us that last piece, which is what is she seeing before the gun goes off," Tremante-Pelham said. "In this case, she saw that she was in great danger."

Knowles' mother declined to comment after Thursday's verdict, and Parisi left without offering a statement.

Sentencing will be in August. Stover faces up to 25 years to life for the murder conviction and possible extra time for two evidence tampering convictions. The jury also convicted Stover on weapons counts. Prosecutors are researching whether those sentences could add further consecutive time.

Knowles died while still a Schenectady High School student and a mother of a young child.

"In the end," Tremante-Pelham said, "it's important to remember she's a 17-year-old kid. She was still just a young woman in a situation with a man that controlled her. That's what it came down to."

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