3 teens get jail time for roles in murder of Gulfport student

From left, Damon Clark, Deundre Holmes and Ernest Pope
From left, Damon Clark, Deundre Holmes and Ernest Pope

A teenager who pulled out a gun to rob a 15-year-old and two other teens who were with him will spend 10 to 25 years in prison in the slaying of Joshua Xavier “Xa” Cuellar.

The three teens were also 15 when Xa (pronounced “Zay,”) was shot seven times and killed in a robbery on Lowes Avenue in Gulfport on Oct. 22, 2013. Xa was a ninth-grade student at Gulfport High.

The three teens had pleaded guilty to related crimes and were sentenced Tuesday after the shooter, Sellers Johnson, was sentenced to life without parole. Johnson was 17 at the time and Xa had given the four of them a ride early one evening three years ago.

Harrison County Circuit Judge Chris Schmidt on Tuesday imposed a 40-year prison term for Damon Clark on a guilty plea to second-degree murder. Schmidt suspended 15 years, requiring him to serve 25 years day for day without eligibility for early release, Assistant District Attorney Crosby Parker said.

Earnest Pope and Deundre Holmes each pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact to capital murder.

Schmidt sentenced Pope to 20 years in prison.

The judge sentenced Holmes to 20 years and suspended 10 years, leaving 10 years to serve.

The three are now 18 years old.

Johnson had grabbed the gun after Xa fought back, according to testimony.

Surveillance video from a nearby business showed Clark, Pope and Holmes running off as Johnson fired the shots, Parker said.

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