Darrin Malone, who a jury last week found guilty of felony murder-party to a crime in the January 2015 fatal shooting of a gas station clerk in Waukesha, is now awaiting sentencing.
After four days of testimony and less than three hours of deliberations, the jury returned its verdict on Thursday, Feb. 18. Malone, 29, who will be sentenced by Judge Lloyd Carter on April 21, could face up to 61 years in prison.
He has returned to the Dodge Correctional Institution in Waupun until the hearing.
Malone was accused of playing a role in the killing of 65-year-old Citgo clerk Saeed Sharwani of the town of Brookfield during a botched armed robbery at the gas station, 1445 Whiterock Ave.
Testifying against Malone
Malone of Milwaukee did not testify during the trial, which began Monday, Feb. 15. But the two other suspects in the case, Kenneth Thomas and Jerica Cotton, testified on behalf of the state against Malone in exchange for lesser charges against them for their roles in the homicide.
According to the criminal complaint, much of which was reaffirmed in testimony last week, Thomas told investigators that the night of the shooting he, Malone and Cotton drove around Waukesha until they found the Citgo gas station. When they got near the Citgo, Malone allegedly handed Thomas the gun.
After being dropped off by Cotton, Thomas and Malone entered the gas station wearing green Halloween masks, which Thomas said Malone supplied, according to the complaint.
Thomas entered the station first, while Malone allegedly stayed in the background during the armed robbery and shooting. Thomas said in the complaint Malone told Cotton where to drive and made a comment that "there was money out in Waukesha."
Thomas said in the complaint he jumped over the counter when he saw Sharwani drop money. Thomas said Sharwani then came around the counter and grabbed him, which "scared him," and the gun, which was in his hand, went off.
Sharwani was shot in the chest and died a short time later after he called police.
Thomas, of West Allis, and Cotton, of Milwaukee, were quickly arrested while Malone was at-large for more than a month after the shooting.
Malone was eventually arrested at a residence in the 4000 block of N. 48th St. on Milwaukee's north side.
According to the complaint, the three had also taken part in an armed robbery at a 7-Eleven convenience store in the town of Brookfield three days before the fatal shooting in Waukesha. Malone and Cotton were not charged with that robbery.
Accomplices' court status
However, in the Citgo case, Thomas, 20, accused of shooting Sharwani, is charged with first-degree intentional homicide, armed robbery, possessing a firearm by a felon, among other felony offenses.
Cotton, 24, the getaway driver, had been charged with felony murder-party to a crime. However, given her testimony last week, the state filed an amended charge of armed robbery-party to a crime on Monday, Feb. 22. She pleaded guilty to the charge, eliminating the need for her scheduled jury trial.
She faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted, 15 fewer than what she faced with the original charge. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 28.
A jury trial had also been scheduled for Thomas this week, but he is now expected to make his plea on Friday, Feb. 26.
Both Thomas and Cotton remain at the Waukesha County Jail. Thomas had previously been confined to the Dodge Correctional Institution.
In a letter to the judge in October, Cotton asked for a bail modification so she could be transferred to the Huber Jail facilities as a way to continue to better herself.
"I fully understand the seriousness of my charges, however, despite the severity of them, it's the result of several bad choices," she wrote. "I am not a bad person. This entire experience has been eye-opening. I am constantly learning daily and as every day passes, I feel I'm growing and maturing into a more responsible member of society.
"I want to prove to you, Judge Carter, that I am a work-in-progress and that I am changing."
Carter has not addressed Cotton's request, but her bail — a cash bond of $250,000 had been set when she was initially charged last year — has been revoked until her sentencing hearing.