Man Sentenced in Drive-By Murder of Northland Teen

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PLATTE CITY, Mo. -- A Kansas City man will spend the next 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to his role in the 2010 drive-by shooting death of a Parkville teen.

Stephen L. Ellis, 20, was sentenced on Thursday in a Platte County courtroom after pleading guilty to second-degree murder and armed criminal action in connection to being the driver in the drive-by shooting death of 17-year-old Spencer J. Crosthwait at a Parkville intersection in July 2010.

The actual shooter, Justin Dougan, pleaded guilty to the same charges and is now serving two life sentences.

"As a Christian I know my son is in God's hands, but I'm selfish, I want him hear with me I dream of what he could've been," said Tracy Middleton, Crosthwait's mother, in court on Thursday.

According to prosecutors, Ellis drove to Dougan's house shortly after midnight on July 29, 2010. Prosecutors say that Dougan came out of the house with a rifle, got into the back seat of Ellis’s car and said “somebody just robbed me, and we are going to go shoot them.”

At approximately 1:00 a.m., as Crosthwait was waiting on a traffic light at the intersection of 45 Highway and 9 Highway, Ellis drove up to the driver’s side of his car and yelled “shoot” immediately before Dougan fired the deadly shot.

The only passenger in Crosthwait’s vehicle then drove the car to the parking lot of a nearby Price Chopper, where a manager called 911. Parkville Police officers arrived on the scene, where Crosthwait was pronounced dead.

Prosecutors say that the confrontation began as a dispute over a girl and some money that Dougan claimed was owed to him. A third teen in the car with Ellis and Dougan that night has not been charged, but prosecutors say that charges could still be filed against him.

On the witness stand on Thursday, Ellis spoke to Crosthwait's family.

"Everyday all I wish is to be blessed with your forgiveness," said Ellis, going on to say that just two days before the shooting, Crosthwait ran out of gas and the person he called for help was him.

Ellis' father, Curtis Ellis, says that he thinks his son should not have been given any jail time for his role in the incident, noting that Ellis helped point police to the actual shooter.

"He made a mistake, yeah, by letting him in with the gun, but did he know he was going to shoot him? No. Did he plan on it? No," said Curtis Ellis.

"Stephen Ellis was in the driver's seat in more ways than one," said Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd. "Drive-by shootings by definition have to have a gunman and a driver. If the driver doesn't drive to the location, it doesn't happen."

"He did what he did, and he has to live with that for the rest of his life just as I do," said Middleton.

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