Death penalty sought in fatal shooting outside Lehigh Valley Target

By Sarah Cassi | For

Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty against one of the men accused of killing a man and injuring another in a shooting last year outside a Lehigh Valley Target store.

Kevin Littles Jr., 22, and Jakiye Taylor, 18, both of Harrisburg, are each facing homicide, robbery, and related charges in connection with the Aug. 8, 2021, shootings that claimed Elijah Johnson, 20, and wounded Jayzell Avery Sanders, 23.

Northampton County District Attorney Terry Houck has said Littles killed Johnson, shooting him multiple times including in the head, during a drug deal turned robbery in a busy Lower Nazareth Township shopping center. Taylor is charged with attempted homicide in Sanders’ shooting.

Littles was in Northampton County Court on Tuesday for his formal arraignment, and Chief Deputy District Attorney Patricia Fuentes Mulqueen filed notice she will seek the death penalty if Littles is convicted of first-degree murder in his case.

Littles is represented by defense attorney Gary Asteak, who was not immediately available for comment.

Taylor was 17 at the time of the crime and is charged as an adult, but prosecutors will not be seeking a capital sentence in his case, Mulqueen said.

The day of the shootings, Sanders and Johnson, who are both from Monroe County, were meeting two men to sell five pounds of marijuana for $9,240, according to Johnson’s Snapchat records and court records.

Sanders previously testified Johnson was meeting people from Harrisburg that he did not know, and he had asked Sanders to come with him. Sanders testified he did not know it was a deal for marijuana until they were meeting with the men near the Target off of Route 248 near Route 33.

Littles and Taylor got into the backseat of the car Johnson was driving, and eventually the two men pulled out handguns, according to Sanders.

Johnson “tussled” with one of the men, who asked Johnson if he “really want to die over this,” Sanders previously testified. Johnson was fatally wounded, and was pronounced dead at St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem Township.

Sanders ran out of the car and started running to the front of the Target when he was shot in the shoulder, and Sanders told investigators he fired back with his .22-caliber pistol. Video surveillance showed Sanders running and shooting the handgun back toward the Buick, police have said.

Prosecutors said Littles and Taylor fled. Taylor was arrested in May, and Littles surrendered to police later that month. Both are being held without bail in their respective cases.

When seeking the death penalty, prosecutors must include a notice of aggravating factors.

In this case, Mulqueen filed two factors: that Johnson was killed in the perpetration of a felony, specifically robbery, and that Littles knowingly created a grave risk of death to another person by allegedly opening fire in a busy parking lot.