By John Balch
HOT SPRINGS – “Maybe now my family can start some of the healing process, but keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we have to attend the second trial for the second suspect.”
Those are the words of Shunelle King of Nashville after attending the first of two trials for the Malvern men accused in the death of her son, Donyell “Head” King, 23, formerly of Nashville.
Kaylen Dantrell Damion Burks, 25, was sentenced to 90 years in prison last week in Garland County where King’s death happened. A jury found Burks guilty on July 1 and he returned to face his sentenced on the charges of second-degree murder, three counts of committing a terroristic act and a felony firearm enhancement after a week-long trial.
According to reporting in the Hot Springs newspaper, Burks was originally charged with first-degree murder, but the jury found him guilty of the lesser offense of second-degree murder. He was sentenced to 30 years on the murder charge, 20 years each on two of the terroristic act counts and five years on the
third counts with 15 years automatically added with the firearm enhancement.
Burks was found not guilty of an additional battery charge stemming from the injuries to Donald King, Donyell’s father, who was in the vehicle with his son and Shunelle King when he was shot on Mother’s Day 2019 in Hot Springs.
By law, Burks must serve at least 22 years in prison before he is eligible for parole.
The King family is now awaiting the trial of the second man charged in former Scrapper’s death.
Tommy Eddie Woodfork III, 20, of Malvern, is set for a jury trial on Sept. 27 on the same charges as Burks, including first-degree murder and first-degree battery.
“My family and I are pleased with this first verdict and sentencing for my son’s murder,” Mrs. King told The Nashville News-Leader. “This has been very hard and almost debilitating for us.”
Mrs. King was in the backseat of the vehicle when her husband and son were shot late that Mother’s Day night. She was not injured.
“To see my son and husband shot in a matter of seconds and inches away from me is the the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced.”
Mrs. King said her son was an “extraordinary young man” and she revealed he and his fiancé were expecting a baby at the time of his death at 23 years old.
“They had their whole life planned out, but it was cut short by a person with no respect for human life.”
She added, “I am so thankful to the Garland County judicial courts and police department and give all praise to God. Long live ‘Head’ King!”
The week of the sentencing a new billboard went up near Wilson Park on Mt. Pleasant Drive where Donyell King used to play baseball for the Scrappers. The family has put up other billboards around town calling for an end to gun violence. On the billboard near the baseball field, one side says “Once a Scrapper, Always a Scrapper.”
Donyell King’s death happened shortly before midnight Sunday, May 12, 2019 in the 100 block of Lily Ruth Court in Hot Springs. King’s father, Donald King, 50, of Nashville, was also injured in the shooting incident.
According to case records, when Hot Springs officers arrived on the scene they found Donyell King in the driver’s seat of his car with gunshot wounds to his face and shoulder. His mother was in the car with her son when police arrived.
The elder King was found nearby with a gunshot wound to his back. His injuries were considered non-life threatening and both were transported to an area hospital where the son died of his injuries.
According to a witness, Whitney Finley, who is Donyell King’s sister, she and her friend, Burks, were with her family on Mother’s Day when she and her brother reportedly got into an altercation. Burks eventually became involved and after the incident was broken up he and the sister left.
Finley told investigators that Burks was upset about being “punked out” and he made some calls that led to a return trip to Lily Ruth Court.
Once back at the scene, Burks along with a subject later identified as Woodfork allegedly approached Donyell King’s vehicle and began arguing with him.
“She said within seconds the black male with dreads pulled out a handgun and fired shots at Donyell.” Burks and Woodfork reportedly fled the area immediately.
Another subject, Ashley Smith, was at the scene and fled with Woodfork, who she allegedly identified later as the shooter.