Waco teen sentenced to prison after killing stepfather suspected of molesting young relative

Jerome Degrate, 19, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter in the Feb. 11, 2021,...
Jerome Degrate, 19, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter in the Feb. 11, 2021, shooting death of Sylvester Dixon.(KWTX)
Published: Jun. 16, 2022 at 1:46 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A Waco teenager who shot and killed his stepfather last year after learning that he was suspected of molesting a young family member was sentenced to 12 years in prison Thursday.

Judge Susan Kelly of Waco’s 54th State District Court accepted a plea agreement in which Judarius Jerome Degrate, 19, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter in the Feb. 11, 2021, shooting death of Sylvester Dixon.

Degrate was indicted on a first-degree felony murder charge in April 2021. However, as part of the plea bargain, prosecutors filed superseding second-degree manslaughter charges Thursday morning, alleging Degrate acted recklessly or out of passion instead of intentionally or knowingly.

Degrate will be given credit for the 15 months he has been jailed. He must earn credit for serving at least a quarter of his 12-year sentence before he can seek parole.

“Manslaughter is appropriate in this circumstance,” said prosecutor Kristi DeCluitt. “The charge is appropriate. What he was charged with and the charge he ended up pleading to was what was appropriate in this case.”

Waco police responding to the shooting found Dixon lying in the street at North 16th Street and Providence Drive. Degrate told police at the time he thought his stepfather slipped and fell on the ice and was unaware he was hit by a bullet.

Degrate’s mother, who attended Thursday’s plea hearing with other family members, declined comment on her son’s guilty plea.

She told police her son shot her husband during an argument, reports state. Witnesses told police they say Degrate jump over fences in the neighborhood in an attempt to elude capture.

Sources familiar with the case say Degrate confronted Dixon after a family member reported that Dixon touched her inappropriately and made lewd comments to her.

Officers arrested Degrate near North 15th Street and Indiana Avenue. Degrate admitted to police he got a handgun from his bedroom “and then there was a verbal altercation over an alleged offense occurring concerning Mr. Dixon,” according to an arrest affidavit filed in the case.

Dixon fled the house, followed by Degrate, who fired shots that struck Dixon in the back, police reports indicate.

Police reports show Degrate told officers where he threw the gun, which they recovered.

Degrate’s attorney, Josh Tetens, said the reduced charge was appropriate in the case.

“Any death in a family is tragic, but after discussing all options with the state and the family, this is the fairest outcome,” Tetens said. “When crimes of passion occur, there are no winners, and we hope this agreement brings peace and closure to all involved.”

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