NORFOLK, Va. – The last of four individuals was sentenced Friday for their involvement in the 2020 fatal shooting of 33-year-old Charles Anthony Sparks. A Norfolk jury convicted 51-year-old Peter William Babar and 29-year-old Donell Small Jr. of voluntary manslaughter; a Norfolk judge convicted Mr. Babar of being a violent felon in possession of a firearm; and both 55-year-old Delphine Diane Simmons and 32-year-old Krystal Bowers pleaded guilty to being accessories after the fact to the killing of Mr. Sparks.
The events leading up to the killing of Mr. Sparks had to do with a feud between Mr. Sparks' wife and Krystal Bowers. On Aug. 17, 2020, Ms. Bowers had an argument with Mrs. Sparks regarding an unemployment benefits debit card. The women worked together at a convenience store and had agreed to assist a homeless frequent customer of the store to help him secure unemployment benefits and stimulus payments. Ms. Bowers was not able to immediately activate or use the man's card and became suspicious of Mrs. Sparks' intentions. According to Ms. Bowers, Mrs. Sparks had also threatened Ms. Bowers' family amid the feud.
The next morning, Ms. Bowers left work before the end of her shift and confronted Mrs. Sparks about the alleged threats. Mrs. Sparks then asked her husband to meet with Ms. Bowers and Ms. Bowers' boyfriend, Mr. Small, to resolve the debit card disagreement.
Approximately 20 minutes after Ms. Bowers left the store, Mrs. Sparks received a call from her sister with the news that her husband had been shot.
Mr. Sparks had agreed to meet Mr. Small in Middle Towne Arch, where Mr. Small lived with his mother, Ms. Simmons. Mr. Sparks' sister-in-law drove Mr. Sparks to meet with Mr. Small and Ms. Bowers. Shortly after Mr. Sparks began speaking with Mr. Small in the street, Ms. Simmons and her boyfriend, Mr. Babar, pulled up in another vehicle.
Mr. Babar got out of his car and immediately charged at Mr. Sparks with a firearm. Meanwhile, Mr. Sparks' sister-in-law got out of her vehicle and began arguing with Mr. Small, Ms. Bowers, and Ms. Simmons. At some point, Mr. Small walked over to Ms. Bowers' vehicle, retrieved a firearm, and returned to the argument. A gunshot rang out from Mr. Babar's direction, and Mr. Sparks hunched over and started to come around the back of his sister-in-law's car. Mr. Sparks, who was unarmed, was then hit by more gunfire from Mr. Small's direction and fell to the ground. Mr. Babar and Mr. Small had shot Mr. Sparks four times in his legs.
Mr. Sparks' sister-in-law, who was standing close enough to Mr. Small to feel the burn of gunpowder on her arms, took cover before loading Mr. Sparks back into the car and driving him to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. Mr. Sparks' femoral artery was wounded, and he died of catastrophic blood loss within minutes of arriving at the hospital.
By the time Norfolk Police responded to the scene, Mr. Sparks had already been driven away. Mr. Small and Mr. Babar fled on foot, and they were later picked up by Ms. Bowers and Ms. Simmons. In the hours after the shooting, Ms. Simmons bought new cell phones for herself, Mr. Small, and Mr. Babar. Ms. Simmons was detained at her home later that day, with thousands of dollars in cash and a parking pass from a Virginia Beach hotel on her person. The next morning, the remaining co-defendants were apprehended at the same hotel. Mr. Small and Ms. Bowers were also in possession of thousands of dollars in cash, and Mr. Small admitted to shooting Mr. Sparks, but he stated that it was in self-defense.
Following a joint trial, on July 8, 2022, a Norfolk jury found Mr. Small and Mr. Babar guilty of voluntary manslaughter. On Sept. 30, 2022, Judge David W. Lannetti sentenced both men to 10 years in prison. Judge Lannetti suspended four years and six months of Mr. Small's sentence for an active sentence of five years and six months, and the judge suspended one year of Mr. Babar's sentence for an active sentence of nine years. Both men's suspended sentences are conditioned upon 10 years of uniform good behavior and indeterminate supervised probation following their release from prison.
Ms. Bowers pleaded guilty on Aug. 23, 2022, to acting as an accessory after the fact of voluntary manslaughter. She was sentenced the same day by Judge Mary Jane Hall to 12 months in jail, with all time suspended conditioned upon a year of uniform good behavior and no contact with Mr. Sparks' family members. Ms. Simmons pleaded guilty to the same charge on Sept. 14, 2022. She was sentenced the same day by Judge Jerrauld C. Jones to 12 months in jail, with 11 months suspended under the same conditions as Ms. Bowers.
On Jan. 11, 2023, in a separate bench trial related to the same incident, Judge John R. Doyle III found Mr. Babar guilty of being a violent felon in possession of a firearm. Judge Doyle sentenced Mr. Babar on March 31 to five active years in prison for the firearm charge, with one additional year suspended on the condition that Mr. Babar complete his post-release supervision.
"People who kill to get the last word in an argument commit a crime, and we have worked to hold Mr. Babar and Mr. Small accountable," said Commonwealth's Attorney Ramin Fatehi. "People who help cover up the crimes of others commit a crime themselves, and they also must answer for what they have done. My condolences go to Mr. Sparks' family. Mr. Sparks should be here today."
Senior Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney William S. Maydosz led the prosecution of each co-defendant's case on behalf of the Commonwealth.