Teen pleads guilty in murder case that Minnesota’s attorney general took away from local prosecutor

Published 6:09 am Monday, March 25, 2024

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MINNEAPOLIS — A Minnesota teenager pleaded guilty to murder Friday for killing a young mother, in a case where Gov. Tim Walz took the rare step of taking the case away from Hennepin County prosecutors and handing it to Attorney General Keith Ellison amid public criticism that the original plea deal was too lenient.

Foday Kevin Kamara, 17, of Brooklyn Park, who agreed earlier in the week to be certified as an adult, pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree intentional murder in the Nov. 8, 2022, killing of Zaria McKeever, 23, in her apartment. He admitted to shooting her in a confrontation allegedly instigated by McKeever’s ex-boyfriend, Erick Haynes, who prosecutors say was jealous of her new boyfriend.

As part of his new plea agreement, Kamara agreed to testify at the upcoming trial of Haynes and two other defendants, which is set to begin April 1. The state agreed to recommend that Kamara get 10 years and 10 months at his sentencing May 8. Minnesota inmates typically serve two-thirds of their sentences in prison and the rest on supervised release.

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Zaria McKeever, who also lived in Brooklyn Park and had a 1-year-old child, “was a loving mother, wonderful daughter, awesome sister, and loyal friend,” Ellison said in a statement. “Her murder continues to be both shocking and heartbreaking for her family and all who loved her.”

Kamara’s attorney, Michael Holland, did not immediately respond to phone messages seeking comment.

Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty had offered Kamara and another defendant juvenile plea deals that would have spared them lengthy adult sentences in exchange for their testimony. Moriarty said at the time that prosecuting them as juveniles offered the best chance for rehabilitation. Ellison and Walz intervened over Moriarty’s objections after the other juvenile’s plea deal had already been accepted.

The attorney general typically takes over criminal cases only at the request of local prosecutors. At the request of Moriarty’s predecessor, Ellison prosecuted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the killing of George Floyd.