CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Kentay Lee is 35 years old but has spent 20 of those years in prison for a murder he has never denied, but one that has raised questions of justice, even for prosecutors.
A judge sentenced Lee to life behind bars without the possibility of parole, but now, Channel 9 has learned he could soon walk out of prison.
On New Year’s Eve in 1998, Lee was 14 years old when he and a friend were invited to a party at Edwin Towers -- a public housing facility for the elderly and the disabled.
Before the night was over, the two teens committed murder and a robbery. Eight days later, homicide detectives recorded Lee's confession.
He told investigators that the two brothers he and his friend were visiting that night had been drinking heavily.
Lee said one of the men, 30-year-old Eddie Mingo, started groping him, and that’s when he used a hammer to beat the man to death.
(Hammer collected from scene)
"I’m like, ‘Terrence, I’m fixing to get him,’” Lee said during his confession. “So, I just, I just ran at him, then put him in a chokehold as hard as I could and started choking him, and Terrence cut him.”
When a detective asked Lee why he wanted to "get him," he responded, “Because he, he had been, he’d been messing with me all night, and I was scared. You know what I’m saying?”
Lee's new attorneys and prosecutors agreed the jury at his trial 19 years ago should have heard testimony about his history of sexual assault trauma and that he may have been entitled to defend himself against another such attack.
Another issue Lee’s attorneys mentioned is that in 2000, prosecutors offered his co-defendant a chance to serve 18 years in prison in exchange for a guilty plea to second-degree murder and armed robbery.
Lee never got that offer -- until Tuesday, when he finally pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.
Now, 21 years after that violent night at Edwin Towers, Lee's time behind bars will soon be over.
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