The mother of a 23-year-old Centennial man who was fatally shot more than a decade ago stood in court and painted a picture of her son as a selfless and naturally caring person — even as a child.
When his young sister broke eggs in the kitchen, Andrew Graham looked his mother in the face, took his sister by the hand and “hid her upstairs” until their mom was no longer upset.
At a competitive event, when Graham won a medal, he instead gave it to his opponent, whom Graham felt was the true winner because his skills were sharper and Graham had won on a technicality.
The night Graham died, he had stopped to buy sandwiches to share with a homeless man — something he did often, his friends told his mother.
“I love my son and miss him greatly. He is the kind of person we should all try to be,” said Cyndi Gelston Graham, his mother. “I am very grateful that my last words to my son were 'I love you.' ”
Suspects' varying outcomes
Gelston Graham's address to the court Jan. 17 came shortly before Allen Deshawn Ford was sentenced to 20 years in prison, three years after he was arrested in connection with Graham's death along with three other suspects.
Ford, Clarissa Jae Lockhart, Kendall Adam Austin and Joseph Martin were arrested after a grand jury in Arapahoe County, called in 2016, indicted the four.
Graham was walking home from a light rail station near the Willow Creek area of Centennial shortly before midnight on Nov. 5, 2009. In the early morning hours of Nov. 6, he was fatally shot, according to authorities. He was found at about 5:30 a.m. on East Phillips Place, a few blocks from home.
Graham's body was found about two blocks south of some of his belongings. Credit cards and a cellphone were found in his bag there, according to authorities. His money was still in his wallet when his body was discovered.
Lockhart, Austin and Ford were charged with first-degree felony murder, as well as conspiracy under the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act, in the case, according to the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office. The district includes Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties.
Ford and Austin were also accused of committing a pattern of racketeering under that law, which is referred to as COCCA.
Ford, who is in his late 20s, chose to address the court at the Jan. 17 hearing. In quiet, low tones, he thanked his attorneys for their time on the case and said he was sorry for Gelston Graham's loss.
None of the four defendants are allegedly the person who shot Graham, according to defense attorneys for Austin.
As is often the case, Ford is expected to serve less than his full 20-year sentence. It's possible he may ultimately serve as little as seven years, said Gelston Graham, who consistently has attended court hearings for the defendants.
Ford's sentencing comes after he took a plea agreement in November. It was unclear from the Jan. 17 hearing to which charge he pleaded guilty, although Judge Michael Spear mentioned that two of the three counts were to be dismissed. The sentence includes five years of mandatory parole.
Ford's defense attorney said he could not confirm the details of his plea agreement or comment on how many years Ford is ultimately expected to serve.
Martin pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery and in February 2018 received a 10-year prison sentence and three years of mandatory parole, according to the state judicial branch.
The DA's office moved to dismiss all of the charges against Austin on Oct. 2 after deciding it no longer had “a reasonable likelihood of success at trial,” according to Austin's defense attorney. The DA's office also cited a general lack of forensic evidence against him, according to the defense.
Lockhart recently was set for a pretrial conference on Feb. 27, according to the DA's office.
The DA's office said it could not confirm details of the cases against any of the suspects with Colorado Community Media, citing that the cases are still suppressed — no documents or further information are available for release.
Gelston Graham will likely watch hearings at the Arapahoe County District Court again as Lockhart's potential trial draws near.
“I'm taking one step at a time,” Gelston Graham said outside the courtroom.
After his death, Graham's friends, along with faculty who knew him as a student at the University of Colorado, wrote glowing letters to his mother about their appreciation for him.
CU's ultimate Frisbee team, for which Graham played, retired his number after his death. He played the sport calmly and with tenacity, but without swagger, earning the respect of his teammates, according to his mother, who read from their letters in court.
A letter from the university's engineering department called Graham a passionate and committed student, and the department renamed a graduate fellowship in his honor.
Another letter called him “truly one of the most caring, humble and intelligent people” the writer knew, Gelston Graham said.
Said another letter writer, recounting how Graham carried himself through challenges of his sport:
“He had his own style. It wasn't that he didn't care, he just didn't seem to be affected,” Gelston Graham read. “I admired that about him. He was an individual. He was unique.”
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