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Grieving mother furious with St. Louis prosecutors for striking deal with son's killer

State law requires victims be told about developments in their cases, but Shirley Cobb said Kim Gardner's office did not tell her about a plea deal

ST. LOUIS — A grieving mother is furious with St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner after she says prosecutors struck a deal with her son’s alleged killer without her knowledge and is begging the judge not to accept it.

Shirley Washington Cobb says prosecutors with Gardner’s office plan to ask Judge Rex Burlison Monday to accept a plea deal for Jarmond Johnson that would send him to prison for eight years for the murder of her son, Dwight Washington at the Civic Center Metro Transit Center, near the Enterprise Center in February 2020.

It’s a deal she does not support and says Gardner’s office is trying to “bully” her into accepting.

“Judge Burlison, I would get on bended knee if necessary, to beg that you review the leniency of the request proposed by this defendant’s attorneys,” she wrote. “My son’s life was valuable to his family and many others.

“As his mother, my heart is now irreparably broken as a result of the actions of Jarmond Johnson.”

Authorities said Washington and Johnson knew each other and got into an argument near the station. The argument ended in a physical altercation. Washington was taken to the hospital in critical condition and later died.

RELATED: Man died after assault at Metro transit center in downtown St. Louis

This is the second case in which the I-Team discovered a crime victim’s family has not been kept informed of the developments in their loved one’s case – as required by state law.

In the first case, members of Randy Moore's family told the I-Team prosecutors did not keep them informed about the developments in his alleged killer's case. A prosecutor on maternity leave was assigned to that case and failed to show up for three hearings, which then forced a judge to dismiss the case Friday.

The prosecutor assigned to the case resigned Tuesday.

Gardner's office re-filed the murder charges against the suspect in that case, Brandon Campbell, and erroneously said he remained in custody. But he was released Friday and a manhunt for him is currently underway.

RELATED: St. Louis police need help finding suspect in 2020 homicide who was released from custody

Cobb wonders what would have happened to her son's case had she not been planning to come to St. Louis from her home in Texas for what she believed was going to be a trial.

“Had I not called on my own that day by chance, I would have never known this was happening,” Cobb said. 

"Kim Gardner, it appears to me, could care less. I wish and it would be my hope that she would be fired immediately and not covered by the people who think that she represents the community in a positive way because if one thinks about this logically, about the Black community, if you allow people to get off with an 8-year sentence which might end up being 2 or 3 years, what is your motivation not to kill anyone who annoys you?

"I pray with all that is within me, I beseech the judge to give me more time to provide documentation if that is necessary and to prove Kim Gardner and I will call them accomplices are not worthy of being called representatives for the people of St. Louis please don’t vote for her at all."

Gardner has refused multiple requests for an interview from the I-Team. In a statement, a spokesman for her wrote: 

"Our office is unable to comment on that case as it is currently pending. Our Victim Services department works closely with victims and their families."

Cobb's mother said her son knew Johnson from the streets and he got upset with her son because he did not want to give him any more money.

"I found out my son and his twin brother, who is also on the streets, gave this man their food the night before this happened," she said. "My son was a giving person."

She said she learned just how giving he was when she got to the hospital while he was on his deathbed. Doctors told her he was an organ donor. She got to kiss him goodbye before he was taken into surgery to have his organs donated to others.

"He saved the lives of five people," she said, pausing to wipe away tears.

Cobb says the original prosecutor in the case, Jay Godsy, told her he did not agree with an eight-year sentence plea because he believed the evidence was strong enough to go to trial.

She then called Gardner’s office about a week ago to confirm whether she should book a flight from her home in Texas to be in St. Louis to give a victim impact statement, and was told Godsy had left the office and the new prosecutor was pursuing the eight-year plea deal.

That new prosecutor, Mr. Sai Chigurupati, told her it was protocol to honor the recommendation of the previous prosecutor on the case.

Cobb wasn’t buying it.

Credit: Shirley Washington Cobb
Dwight Washington lays in the hospital after being beaten in 2020.

“That’s not what Mr. Godsy told me, and there were two other people on that call,” she said.

That’s when she wrote the letter to Burlison, copying Gardner on July 17.

Read Cobb's July 17 letter to Burlison here.

Then, Gardner, her Chief Warrant Officer Chris Hinckley and Gardner's Director of Community Engagement Khatib Waheed called Cobb.

“They basically threatened me and told me if I didn’t agree to this, then he could get nothing,” Cobb said. “And they tried to blame the police saying the video didn’t have sound and it was hard to tell if this was just a scuffle.”

Gardner’s staff also told Cobb there were no witness statements – something homicide detectives told her they had. And her own children tracked down witnesses to the beating who said they were willing to testify. She said the Medical Examiner’s report also concluded her son’s injuries looked “purposeful.”

Cobb said she told Gardner’s staff members about all she knew during the call.

“They brushed it off like it didn’t matter,” Cobb said.

Cobb said she refused to accept the deal, and fired off another letter to Burlison two days after her first one.

Read Cobb's July 19 letter to Burlison here.

“After carefully revisiting the information from the current Prosecuting Attorney Mr. Sai Chigurupati, I realized that the information that I most recently received from The Circuit Attorney’s office is highly improbable,” she wrote.

Cobb said her son knew his alleged killer from the streets and he got upset with her son because her son did not want to give him any more money. 

"I found out my son and his twin brother, who is also on the streets, gave this man their food the night before this happened," she said. "My son was a giving person."

She said she learned just how giving he was when she got to the hospital while he was on his deathbed. Doctors told her he was an organ donor. She got to kiss him goodbye before he was taken into surgery to have his organs harvested.

"He saved the lives of five people," she said, pausing to wipe away tears.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified one of the people who called Cobb about the plea deal on her son's case.