Judge in Davontae Sanford hearings bars testimony from hit man’s former lawyer


, Detroit Crime Examiner

In a conference in Wayne Circuit Court Judge Brian Sullivan’s chambers Thursday, the judge informed Kim McGinnis, Davontae Sanford’s lawyer, that he would not allow testimony from Gabi Silver, former attorney for imprisoned hit man Vincent Smothers, about conversations Silver had with Smothers about the killing of four people in a dope house on Runyon St.
The ruling is a setback for McGinnis, who wants the judge to set aside Sanford’s guilty plea to the four murders and award him a new trial. McGinnis contends that the guilty plea was based on a bogus confession Sanford made merely to please the police officers. Sanford is developmentally disabled, and was only 14 at the time of the confession.
Self-professed hit man Vincent Smothers was twice that age when he told police and others that he had done the Runyon St murders. He is now in prison for eight other contract killings

Smothers is not willing to testify in the Sanford hearings, but has waived the attorney-client privilege as to conversations he had with his former attorney, and is willing to allow Gabi Silver to testify before Judge Sullivan. Smothers undoubtedly told Silver he had killed the four on Runyon street and that Sanford had no part in it.
Though there may no longer be a prosecutor on Kym Worthy’s staff who actually believes Sanford killed those four people, they are fighting McGinnis’ efforts at every turn. They had opposed Silver’s testifying and should be pleased at Judge Sullivan’s ruling. McGinnis is not and plans to appeal it.
Because the judge’s order is not a final judgment, McGinnis will have to petition the Court of Appeals for leave (permission) to appeal. Meanwhile, proceedings in Judge Sullivan’s court will continue, unless someone gets an order staying proceedings.


Detroit Police Homicide

Detroit Police Homicide Sgt. Michael Martell and Officer Kelly Mullins testified they questioned Vincent Smothers in three of the killings he allegedly committed. Both officers stated Smothers spoke freely, was cooperative, highly intelligent, and knew he was confessing to the killings.

Officer Kelly Knox

For reasons she still doesn’t understand, Officer Kelly Knox was sitting in her office one day when the phone rang and an anonymous voice gave her a name, Vincent Smothers. Officer Knox had handled the Gravier Street shootings case, and she was seriously surprised to catch this break after nearly a year of silence on the streets. Smothers’ accomplice, Lakari Berry, 27, was arrested shortly after the shootout and is serving life in prison with no chance of parole for the killings. Smothers confessed to police that he was the other shooter.

, Sgt. Michael E. Russell, Sr.

Detroit Police homicide Sgt. Michael Russell, who investigated the Runyon Street killings, said he is certain Sanford was involved in the slayings though he has provided no solid evidence to support that assertion. He said Sanford gave details, including a drawing of where the victims’ bodies were found. But what Sgt. Russell didn’t share in court is the fact that he showed Davontae a video of the crime scene before asking Davontae to draw it. Obviously, Davontae drew what he saw in the video.

, Sgt. Gerald Williams

DETROIT (AP) — A Detroit teenager trying to erase his guilty plea in four killings may get a lift from the testimony of a police officer who talked to a self-described hit man about the case.

Sgt. Gerald Williams testified Thursday in Wayne County court. He says Vincent Smothers told him authorities had the “wrong guy” in four fatal shootings in a Detroit drug den.

Davontae Sanford was 15 when he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 2008. A judge is holding hearings on whether the 17-year-old may withdraw the plea.

Sanford’s lawyer says he took responsibility for the Runyon Street killings to please adults.

Smothers is awaiting trial in eight homicides. Police say he confessed to the Runyon killings in 2008 but hasn’t been charged.

Ernest Davis

Where is Ernest Davis?

Ernest Anthony Davis who goes by the street name of “Nemo” is a known accomplice of Vincent Smothers in multiple murder cases. Ernest Davis has a brother by the name of James W. Davis who resided in the area of Lexington, Kentucky. After committing a murder, Vincent Smothers and Ernest Davis would go to Kentucky together and lie low until they felt it was safe to return to Michigan and carry out another crime. Smothers and Ernest Davis were observed leaving the scene of a Detroit area homicide in a late model Cadillac with Kentucky license plates registered to James W. Davis. The car was later located in Detroit in a burned out condition with a murder victim in it.

According to Smothers, the murders on Runyon Street were ordered by a man named “Lano” over a drug dispute and Ernest Davis had assisted him on the job.

Smothers told police he instructed Davis to stash the murder weapon, a .45-caliber handgun, in his cousin’s house on Promenade Street. According to court records, that is in fact where police found the pistol.

Considering all this, one would assume that Ernest Davis would be the number one suspect as to who was Smothers’ accomplice in the Runyon Street murders. However, to this day no charges have been filed against him. Instead, he has walked free for more than two years since Smothers’ arrest and confessions. In fact, there is no record of police having ever even questioned Davis.

(No photos of Ernest Davis are available publicly.)

, Assistant Prosecutor Robert Stevens


Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Robert Stevens cut contract killer Vincent Smothers a remarkably lenient deal, sentencing him to only 50 years for the planned murders of 8 individuals including a police officer’s wife and two federal informants. This averages out to a sentence of 6 years and 3 months for each premeditated murder – a very generous gesture on the part of the prosecutor.


The Associated Press

A Detroit hit man who pleaded guilty to killing eight people has been granted a lawyer to explore possible appeals.

Mitch Foster says he was recently appointed after Vincent Smothers requested an appellate lawyer.

Foster says he doesn’t know yet if the 29-year-old Smothers has grounds for an appeal or any reason to try to withdraw his guilty pleas in Wayne County Circuit Court.

Smothers is serving at least 52 years in prison for a series of mostly drug-related homicides. He pleaded guilty in June, saying he was a killer-for-hire.

Separately, Smothers told police he was involved in four other killings at a Detroit drug house in 2007. He hasn’t been charged.


, Marzell Black


Detailed here are just five of the seven or more contract hits which Vincent Smothers confessed to carrying out. In the process he also killed several more people who were witnesses to these paid hits.

Marzell Black aided Smothers in carrying out the hit on Rose Cobb.

Lakari Berry was Smothers’ accomplice in the Gravier Street shooting.

Not included in this list were the shootings of several others which Smothers confessed to, including the quadruple homicide on Runyon Street which he carried out with the assistance of Ernest Davis.

Also not included here is the 2006 murder of Willis Watson on Omira Street.



By Sister Siebra Muhammad

Life can be tough on all of us,
but lately your sun won’t shine.
Your going through so many things,
that are way worse then mine.

But look how far you’ve made it,
and look at the friends you’ve made.
I hope you realize how much we love you,
the memory will never fade.

Your unique and so full of talent,
don’t you dare let it all go to waste.
So many wonderful things about you,
that you couldn’t ever be placed.

You are but a lone seagull,
but you soar with beauty and grace.
Your intelligence is so stunning,
the icing is your beautiful face.

Sometimes what others say is important,
because what I want to say is all true.
You’re a great person and friend,
you’re special and there’s no one like you.

Steel all the sun for yourself,
because it’s each heart you’ve stole.
Stay strong because you have the courage,
and smile because it brightens each soul.

This poem was written for Davontae by a very beautiful and compassionate supporter of his fight for Justice, Siebra Mohammed we thank you