Davontae Sanford's stepfather murdered on Detroit's east side

- The stepfather of a man freed from prison after serving eight years for a murder he didn't commit was murdered Thursday morning, police say.

According to Detroit Police, Jermaine Tilmon was killed in the 3600 block of Chatsworth on Detroit's east side Thursday morning around 2:30. The circumstances surrounding his murder is unknown.

Davontae was 15 when he pleaded guilty to four murders and was imprisoned in 2008. In early June, at the age of 23, he walked out of a prison when a judge erased the guilty pleas at the request of Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy.


Sanford had pleaded guilty to the murders of four people, Brian Dixon, 31; Michael Robinson, 33; Nicole Chapman, 29; and D'Angelo McNoriell, 31. Sanford gave a confession for the murders, and pleaded guilty on the second day of trial. He was eventually sentenced to a minimum of 39 years in prison.

Davontae was freed when lawyers discovered a hit man confessed to the killing - just 15 days after Davontae was sent to prison.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy says it all came down to a statement that allowed Davontae Sanford to go free after he was wrongly imprisoned for a quadruple murder he did not commit.

And that statement she claims, came from then-Detroit Police Deputy Chief James Tolbert.

"That's why this case was charged in the first place," she said. "Because we thought we could prove it in court beyond a reasonable doubt."

But doubt set in after Michigan State Police began investigating and accused Tolbert of perjuring himself.

Initially, according to the transcripts, a sketch of the house where all of the four people who were shot and killed was drawn by Davontae Sanford.

"Deputy Chief Tolbert as I indicated before, testified that Mr. Sanford drew the sketch from a blank piece of paper, and then signed it," Worthy said.

In Sept. 2015 during another hearing, Tolbert testified he was the one, who drew the sketch.

Attorney: "So who drew the house here?"

Tolbert: "I drew the house."

Attorney: "Okay you drew the house."

Tolbert: "I said this is the house where were the bodies."

Attorney: "And so he just draws the bodies in there."

Worthy defended how her office handled the case against a young man who spent eight years in prison before his guilty pleas to four fatal shootings were thrown out, years after a hit man claimed responsibility for the crimes.

"I don't know what we could have done differently as this case went through time," she said. "We had a good reason to charge, we thought that when we charged this case it'd be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Again, it seems to be glossed over that we started a trial and there was a guilty plea; he admitted responsibility for what he did. After that, there was a 2-years' long hearing where his guilty plea wasn't challenged."

For years, Worthy's aggressive defense of the case angered Sanford's family and supporters, especially after Smothers offered extensive details about the murders and repeatedly pledged to testify on the young man's behalf.

A series of post conviction hearings began in 2009. The hitman, Vincent Smothers,  was called to testify twice, but Worthy said at her news conference that he refused both times.

mothers, 35, is in prison for 52 years after pleading guilty in 2010 to eight killings. He said he was regularly hired by drug dealers to kill others in the trade but would never take on someone like Sanford as a sidekick.

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