Victim: Sharon Staples, 34, and her unborn baby
Murderers: Malik Merchant, 15, Mical Thomas, 16, & Jimmy Scales, 18
Crime date: August 7, 2011
Crime location: Milwaukee
Merchant, Thomas, and Scales robbed and murdered Sharon, who was about three months pregnant, in front of her 13-year-old son. Scales had been a planner and getaway driver in a 2008 murder. He was tried as a juvenile and released early. Thomas had been convicted as a juvenile of robbery, auto theft, and a gun offense and was also released early.
This story is featured on our Dangerous Early Release page (Dangerous Early Releases of Juvenile Criminals example #5).
“The top officials in the state’s juvenile corrections office in Milwaukee have been put on administrative leave as part of an investigation into the cases of two teenagers who are charged with killing a pregnant woman in front of her son while on parole supervision for previous serious crimes, the Journal Sentinel has learned.
“According to sources familiar with the investigation, the administrative leaves for such senior people – insiders say the leaves may be a first for the Department of Corrections – are related to the cases of a pair of teen defendants, Jimmy Scales, 18, and Mical Thomas, 16, whom the Milwaukee office supervised. Both went to juvenile prison for violent crimes before their release.
“Thomas, Scales and Malik Merchant, 15, are charged with the killing Aug. 7 of Sharon Staples in front her 13-year-old son in a robbery on Milwaukee’s west side.
“On Friday, the top three officials in the department’s Community Supervision Program’s southeast regional office on N. Holton St. in Milwaukee were put on administrative leave, sources said. The office oversees supervision of offenders released from the state’s juvenile prisons in nine counties, including Milwaukee.”
“Scales was committed to the department’s five-year serious juvenile offender program Feb. 4, 2009, after he was found delinquent in Children’s Court for his role in a 2008 killing where he acted as the planner and getaway driver.
“Under the serious juvenile offender program, the department can keep a juvenile locked up for a maximum of three years, plus two years of supervision. But Scales’ juvenile record shows officials released him March 31, 2011 – 10 months before his maximum confinement time would have been up on Feb. 4, 2012. Had he been kept for the full time, he would have been off the streets the morning the Staples slaying occurred.
“Thomas was released under supervision May 5, three months before his commitment with the Department of Corrections was up. The department could have kept him in confinement until two days after the homicide, but then the department would have been forced to release him without any supervision. Thomas had been convicted as a juvenile of robbery, auto theft and a gun offense.”
“Thomas is charged in adult court with first-degree reckless homicide as the alleged shooter in Staples’ death. Prosecutors said Thomas tried to rob Staples and shot her when she would not surrender her purse. When she collapsed, he and Merchant – prosecutors said he acted as a lookout – fled. They later came back and stole her purse while her son ran for help. Scales acted as a getaway driver, a criminal complaint states.
“As the newspaper previously reported, at the time of the Staples homicide, Scales was out on parole in the 2008 case, where he was charged with planning the shooting of 18-year-old Jonathan Mayfield after a party. Prosecutors said he asked his friends to show up with guns and pointed out the victim. After the shooting, he drove the getaway car – the same role he is accused of having in the Staples killing.
“Scales’ co-defendants in the 2008 killing were convicted in adult court of first-degree reckless homicide and sentenced to 20 years in jail each plus several years of supervision.
“Milwaukee police Chief Ed Flynn has criticized Wisconsin’s juvenile justice system, saying police and a victimized community are left to pick up the pieces of an ‘irretrievably broken’ system.
‘Young men embarking on a life of crime learn important lessons during their first exposure to criminal justice,’ Flynn said. ‘If that first exposure, and the second exposure and the third exposure is that violent conduct has no consequences, why should we be surprised that that conduct is repeated?’”
Police in Milwaukee, Wis., arrested three teenage boys Saturday in connection to the killing of a pregnant woman who was gunned down in front of her 13-year-old son last weekend.
The alleged shooters are 15-year-old Malik Merchant and 16-year-old Mical Thomas, Fox 6 News reports. The other teen involved was not yet named by police.
Sharon Staples, 34, was killed early Sunday morning after she refused to give her purse to the two armed robbers. Staples was four months pregnant. Staples left behind seven children ranging in age from 4 to 13.
Sammie Parham, Staples’ boyfriend said, “She was a very, very sweet person. She would never hurt nobody. She would never harm nobody. You asked for anything, she would give it to you.”
Friday night, family and friends marched to end the violence and in remembrance of Staples.
“Sharon’s dead and she’s gone and her children, her 13-year-old son, may never get over this situation,” Yolanda Staples-Lassiter told Fox 6 News.
The two boys now accused with Staples’ murder have a lengthy violent juvenile history.
Thomas, the accused gunman, was on probation for second-degree reckless homicide.
MILWAUKEE — A Milwaukee County judge sentenced 17-year-old Mical Thomas to 35 years in prison plus ten years of extended supervision. This, after pleading guilty to two charges of first degree reckless homicide in the murder of Sharon Staples and her unborn child during an attempted robbery in August 2011.
Thomas say still and silent throughout the sentencing — except for a few words spoken to the victim’s family.
“I, Mical D. Thomas, accept full responsibility for my part that brought your family such pains,” said Thomas.
But once the judge handed down the sentence, Thomas broke his calm. Thomas had to be brought under control by several Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Deputies.
The judge cited Thomas’ extensive juvenile record, the seriousness of the offense, lack of remorse, Thomas’ age and the guilty plea as factors for his decision.
Prosecutors say Thomas and Malik Merchant shot Staples when she refused to give up her purse. Staples was about 10 to 12 weeks pregnant at the time she died. Staples also had her 13-year-old son with her when she was shot.
Prosecutors say Merchant served as the lookout while Thomas tried to steal Staples’ purse, while her son ran to get help.
The alleged lookout, Malik Merchant, was also sentenced Friday after pleading guilty. He will spend 17 years in prison with eight years of extended supervision.
In May, the alleged getaway driver in this case was sentenced to 25 years in prison and ten years of extended supervision.
A teen who drove the getaway van for a robbery that killed a pregnant mother of seven walking with her son was sentenced Friday to 25 years in prison, followed by 10 years of supervision in the community.
Jimmy Scales, 18, of Cudahy, was on parole for a similar role in a 2008 homicide when Sharon Staples, 34, died early Aug. 7. She was fatally shot in front of her 13-year-old son after she wouldn’t give up her purse to Scales’ co-defendants.
Scales pleaded guilty in January to felony murder. That admission of responsibility, and his age, saved him from an even longer sentence, Milwaukee County Circuit Judge David Borowski said.
He called the case “the kind of horrific offense that shakes an entire community” and labeled Scales “a menace to society, a danger to every person” he might encounter.
While he noted a “middle level of remorse” from Scales in court Friday (Scales made a short apology to the Staples family and his own), Borowski also referred to a pre-sentence report in which the writer said Scales bragged of being a Gangster Disciple and had his nickname, Jimmy Savage, tattooed on his arm.
Scales was driving a stolen minivan when Mical Thomas and Malik Merchant saw Staples and her son in the 3700 block of W. Lisbon Ave. about 5:30 a.m. Aug. 7 and told Scales to stop, according to the complaint. Thomas and Merchant jumped out and threatened her. When she wouldn’t give up her purse, Thomas shot her. He and Merchant fled but came back later to take the purse, while Staples’ 13-year-old son was gone looking for help.
That fact particularly irked Borowski. “You had no concern for a woman dying in the street,” he told Scales, and later asked him to explain the decision to circle back. Scales offered no response.
Merchant, 15, pleaded guilty to first degree reckless homicide and armed robbery, both as party to a crime, in May.
Thomas, 17, pleaded guilty in March to two counts of first degree reckless homicide, as party to a crime. Both are set for sentencing June 29.
Borowski noted that while Scales was only 17 at the time, he was the oldest of the three and had already been involved in one homicide, and as the driver, could have told the others not to “do a lick,” slang for a robbery.
Assistant District Attorney Mark Williams called Staples “a wholly innocent victim” who was out at 5:30 a.m. looking for her car, which she’d lent to her boyfriend and he hadn’t returned, because she had promised to take her daughter shopping for her birthday later that day.
At the time of Staples’ death, Scales was still on parole for being party to a second-degree reckless homicide in 2008. He had called some friends after he was in a fight. They showed up with guns and he drove as they all went looking for Scales’ adversaries. The friends with guns got out and later killed an 18-year-old man, then got back in the van. Scales drove them away to his grandmother’s house where they hid the weapons.
Scales was sentenced in 2009 to five years under the serious juvenile offender program. He spent part of that time in secure detention at Ethan Allen School in the Town of Delafield because he was considered “a danger to the public.”
He was released at least six months before his maximum three-year confinement was up, records showed, about six months before Staples was killed.
In court, Scales looked back at his mother, who left the gallery crying after the sentence was announced.
“I see how his mother feels,” said Vanessa Colvert, a friend of Staples’ family who now helps look after her children, ages 4 to 13. “That’s a mother’s love. These kids won’t have that. They’re looking back saying, ‘Where’s mom?’ “
COURT OF APPEALS
DATED AND FILED
November 19, 2013
¶2Merchant, along with two companions, shot and killed a pregnant woman, Sharon Staples, in front of her thirteen-year-old son in order to steal her purse. The State filed a criminal complaint charging Merchant with armed robbery and two counts of first-degree reckless homicide, as a party to each crime. The State also charged Merchant with the attempted armed robbery of Anthony L. Jagers, alleging that Merchant and his co-actors tried to rob Jagers at gunpoint shortly before confronting and killing Staples. According to the complaint and Jagers’s testimony at the preliminary examination, Merchant was the gunman during the attempted armed robbery.
¶3 Pursuant to a plea bargain, Merchant pled guilty to armed robbery and to the first-degree reckless homicide of Staples as a party to both crimes. At the plea hearing and at the later sentencing proceeding, the State acknowledged that Merchant played the roles of follower and lookout in the offenses against Staples and that he cooperated in the investigation of the crimes. In exchange for Merchant’s guilty pleas to the two offenses, and in recognition of his role in those offenses and his cooperation afterwards, the State agreed to recommend eighteen years of initial confinement. The State also moved to dismiss and read in the charge of first-degree reckless homicide of Staples’s unborn child and the charge of attempted armed robbery.
¶4 At sentencing, the State recommended a total of eighteen years of initial confinement. Merchant recommended a period of nine-to-twelve years of initial confinement followed by an unspecified period of extended supervision. The circuit court imposed a twenty-five year term of imprisonment for the first-degree reckless homicide, bifurcated as seventeen years of initial confinement and eight years of extended supervision. The circuit court imposed a concurrent four-year sentence for the armed robbery, evenly bifurcated between initial confinement and extended supervision.
¶5 Merchant moved for sentence modification, asserting that his role in robbing and killing Staples warrants a twelve-year term of initial confinement. The circuit court denied the motion, and this appeal followed.