Woman accepts plea deal in Warner Robins hotel slaying. ‘She is very sorry,’ attorney says

Kendra Tenesha Tillery
Kendra Tenesha Tillery

A woman facing a murder charge in the slaying of a man outside a Warner Robins motel in 2017 pleaded guilty Friday to a lesser charge of attempted armed robbery.

Kendra Tenesha Tillery, 21, of Warner Robins, was sentenced Thursday by Houston County Superior Court Judge G.E. “Bo” Adams to the maximum of 30 years in prison.

Charges of murder and aggravated assault in the slaying of 34-year-old Donell Nathaniel Hawkins were dismissed against Tillery as part of the plea agreement.

Hawkins was found dead on the sidewalk in front of room number 103 of the Budget Inn on Watson Boulevard about 11 p.m. June 28, 2017. He had been shot once in the chest.

Codefendants Malik Qran Golden, 21, and Willie Walters III, 20, of Perry, previously were sentenced to life with the possibility of parole for Hawkins’ killing.

“What we did is, the two gunmen ... they can’t come up for parole for 30 years ... Based on (Tillery) accepting responsibility for being involved, then we let her plea to criminal attempt to commit armed robbery and the state argued for 30 years in the penitentiary, which is the maximum,” said deputy chief assistant district attorney Clif Woody, who prosecuted the case.

Tillery’s attorney Nick White argued for a lesser sentence of 15 years in prison.

“She is very remorseful about her part in the crime,” White said. “She feels very ashamed and embarrassed and I know that she is very sorry to the family for what happened.

“She expressed that to me over the course of my representing her, and I think the outcome was very fair. It reflected her limited role in the crime,” White said. “The judge did give her 30 years today, but it’s not a life sentence so she’ll have the opportunity to be considered for an early parole.”

Tillery was texting with Hawkins back and forth “to make sure that he was in his room and to make sure he didn’t have a gun and pretty much with that communication set up the robbery itself,” Woody said.

“Just seven minutes after her last text is when Donell Hawkins was shot,” Woody said.

According to an arrest warrant for Tillery, she was accused of luring Hawkins into a position for Golden to shoot him. Golden was initially identified in an arrest warrant as the shooter. However, Walters was subsequently identified as “the person who actually shot” Hawkins, according to his arrest warrant.

Walters, who testified during Golden’s trial, admitted that he participated in the attempted robbery, but denied having the gun and shooting Hawkins. Golden also denied shooting Hawkins, Woody said.

Golden and Walters allegedly conspired to rob Hawkins, who had been staying at the motel for about a month and was believed to be selling drugs, according to arrest warrants.

A book bag in which Hawkins reportedly carried marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, prescription drugs and cash was missing at the crime scene. His cellphone also was missing, but was later recovered by police. Text messages linked Golden and Tillery, who were dating at the time of the slaying, according to the warrants.

Golden matched the description of a suspect captured on surveillance video, according to the warrants. Golden and Tillery were arrested Oct. 20, 2017 sleeping inside a 2006 Chevrolet Impala parked outside a home in Waterbury, Connecticut.

Warner Robins police are investigating the shooting death of 34-year-old Donell Hawkins at the Budget Inn at 2076 Watson Boulevard at about 11 p.m. on June 28, 2016