Jonathan GordonMay 23, 2018, 1:07 pmMay 24, 2018, 3:55 pm

Teen sentenced to 18 years after stabbing movie theater employee to death

Judge: ‘You’re a bully; that’s generous. You’re really a gutless coward’

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WHITE PLAINS – Michael Pettiford, 16, was sentenced on Wednesday to spend the next 18 years in state prison, plus five post supervision, at Westchester County Courthouse. Pettiford pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and first-degree robbery for the stabbing death of Daij Thomas, 19, on Jan. 5.

On April 15, 2017, Pettiford approached Thomas at the Ridge Hill movie theater and challenged him to a fight. The victim refused, so Pettiford stole his cellphone and then stabbed him in the chest when Thomas tried to get it back.

Thomas' mother, Shelia Hamilton, had her attorney read a statement by her side. Thomas leaves behind his mother, a girlfriend, and a 3-year-old son they had together.

"To Michael Pettiford, through the loss and all the pain you have put us through, here I am forgiving you. I am doing so because it also helps the process of healing easier. It helps me to let go of the burden and the hate," Westchester Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Strongin said.

Westchester County Court Judge Barry Warhit showed no remorse while handing down Pettiford’s sentencing: "You’re a bully; that's generous. You’re really a gutless coward because you wanted to have a fight. You knew that you had a knife and you took it out; you didn't hesitate," Warhit said.

Outside of court, Pettiford’s mother, Shenequah Dowdy, said the family will challenge the ruling: "We will be filing an appeal and we are not happy with the outcome but things will change."

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