Aiken man sentenced to 38 years for 2019 murder along Laurens Street

·3 min read

Jul. 13—On Tuesday morning, an Aiken man was sentenced to 38 years in prison for his involvement in a 2019 murder that happened along the sidewalk of Laurens Street.

Dae'Kwon Jaheem Simmons, 19, was sentenced to 38 years in prison for the 2019 murder of 42-year-old Larry R. Swearingen III, of Aiken.

Swearingen was walking along the sidewalk with his wife and daughter when he was shot and killed on Laurens Street in north Aiken on Aug. 6, 2019.

This spring, on April 14, Simmons was found guilty and convicted of murder and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.

Although Simmons was 17 years old at the time of the crime, he was tried as an adult.

During a sentencing hearing Tuesday, the prosecution argued for the maximum life sentence and presented information found on Simmons' Facebook page about his involvement in selling guns.

They argued that the defendant's actions were calculated and the incident was not an impulse killing.

According to the prosecution during a bond hearing for Simmons in 2020, law enforcement obtained video surveillance of the incident from a convenience store and a nearby restaurant. Footage showed Simmons attempt to fire his gun, but the firearm jammed; after unjamming it, Simmons fired three more shots in the direction of the victim and his family, prosecutors said.

At Tuesday's sentencing hearing, the victim's father, wife and close friend made statements after the prosecution's argument.

The victim's father, Larry R. Swearingen Jr., asked Judge Courtney Clyburn-Pope to have mercy on Simmons.

"I do not wish to see him spend the rest of his life in prison because that won't fix anything," Swearingen said. "My son's life was no more valuable than this man's life."

The defense stated that Simmons was "terribly, terribly young and is not terribly terribly educated" in their statement to the judge.

They added that "there are things that he should have anticipated, but he's from somewhat of a train-wreck family background."

Simmons' family members did not speak at the hearing, stating they were too emotional.

However, Simmons asked to address the family of the victim.

"I'm sorry. That morning, my intention wasn't to hurt anyone," Simmons said. "I have no hatred to give them, I'm just sorry."

After Simmons' statement, Clyburn-Pope stated that the court recognized his apology.

"I think you understand that this has caused quite a bit of pain for the victim's family and also a lot of pain for your family," said Clyburn-Pope.

She then sentenced Simmons to 38 years in prison for murder and five years for possession of a weapon during a violent crime. The sentences are concurrent, minus time accrued (700 days).

After the sentencing, there was an eruption of yelling on the defendant's side of the courtroom, and police escorted a group of Simmons' family members out of the courthouse.

Tasha Thomas, Simmons' mother, said Simmons "isn't a bad kid, and I'm not just saying that because he's my son — it just takes one mistake."

After the sentencing, Larry R. Swearingen Jr. said he didn't want to see Simmons' life ended, because there's always hope.

"The fact that he'll be eight years younger than I am when he gets out of prison is not very encouraging because pretty much his life is over at that point," he said. "There's always hope, for anybody. There wasn't much in the way of hope for me at one time — it took some hard slaps to change, and I hate seeing anybody have to go down that road. I will continue to pray for the young man, because even in prison he can do something for those who are not going to be there for almost 40 years."

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