Woman's motion to withdraw plea in murder of 13-year-old boy in Detroit denied

Lillian Roberts plead guilty to murdering 13-year-old boy

By John Steckroth - Editor
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Lillian Roberts was in court with a motion to withdraw her plea in the murder of 13-year-old Deontae Mitchell in Detroit. (WDIV)

DETROIT - A woman sentenced in the murder of a 13-year-old boy in Detroit along with two other men was in court Friday for a motion to withdraw her plea and judge denied the motion.

Deontae Mitchell, 13, was abducted outside of a convenience store in June of 2016. His disappearance sparked an Amber Alert. He was tortured and his body was found the next day in a field on Detroit's east side.

Lillian Roberts, 43, was sentenced in November to 24 to 40 years in prison. Now she wants her plea thrown out.

"I apologize for being here, for having (the judge) here wasting the court's time on this matter and I would like to apologize to the Mitchell family," Roberts said in court.

Roberts had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, unlawful imprisonment and felony firearms violations. She asserted that she was advised by her defense counsel that her unlawful imprisonment conviction would not result in having to register as a sex offender, as is required under the Sex Offender Registration Act.

Judge Michael Hathaway denied Roberts request to withdraw her plea to second-degree murder, but did vacate her conviction for unlawful imprisonment because she was not notified of the SORA requirements.

What happened

Deontae was riding bikes with his cousin near Nino’s Market at 15901 E. Warren, police said. The boy's cousin told police that a drunken man dropped money while he was urinating outside the market, and Deontae picked it up.

The boys left the market on their bikes at about 10:30 p.m. Mitchell was grabbed soon afterward and was thrown into a dark-colored 2002 Chevy Impala. Video surveillance showed Deontae being pursued and grabbed.

An Amber Alert was issued and police soon identified Gregory Walker as a suspect.

The FBI joined the investigation and a citywide search was launched the next morning for Deontae. He was found in a field near Harper Avenue and Baldwin Street on the city’s west side. His mother identified him at the Wayne County morgue.

READ: Family positively identifies body found in Detroit field as Deontae Mitchell

READ: Vigil held for Deontae Mitchell

Suspects taken into custody

Police announced that they were looking for two other men in connection with the abduction: Coleman and Roy Portis.

Coleman was taken into custody June 2 and was later charged. Portis, 51, was taken into custody June 3 and was later released. He was never charged.

Walker was found at a motel in Toledo and was taken into custody June 2 along with Roberts. They were extradited to Detroit and charged with multiple felonies.

READ: Suspect in abduction of missing Detroit teen arrested in Ohio

READ: 3 people charged with kidnapping, torture, murder of 13-year-old Deontae Mitchell

Testimony heard

Walker’s cousin, Anthony Young, took the stand and described the events of that evening. He said the boy was tied up in the back seat and was terrified, crying and pleading to be taken home. He also said the amount of money that the boy retrieved from the ground was $70.

READ: Preliminary hearing in Deontae Mitchell case reveals heartbreaking details

Pleas accepted, suspects sentenced

Gregory Walker, 45, was sentenced to 40 to 60 years in prison for his role in Deontae's death.

"I would just like to say I'm sorry to the family," Walker said.

A third defendant, Ernest Coleman, pleaded guilty to torture, unlawful imprisonment, being a felon in possession of a firearm, third-offense habitual offender and felony firearms violations. He was sentenced to 12 to 15 years in prison and two years in prison for the felony firearms violations.

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