‘It’s a blessing’: Victim’s family cries tears of joy as killer sentenced 25 to life

Murder Sentence

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. Three years ago this past Sunday, Devon Wilburn was shot and killed on Dewey Avenue. Wednesday, his family cried tears of joy as his killer was finally sentenced. 

Charles Holley, who is now 33, will serve 25 years to life in prison for killing the 29-year-old. Before he was sentenced, judge Judith Sinclair said this is one of the worst cases over which she’s ever presided.

It happened in daylight on March 24, 2021. Holley approached Wilburn, and gave him a handshake of sorts as a greeting. Then, he pulled out an illegal handgun and fired six times, striking Wilburn twice in the back. Wilburn’s family and investigators both say the two knew each other well. 

“I feel like justice has been served,” Wilburn’s mother Lila Anderson said, pulling out her cell phone. “And I thank them for all the techniques they have going on, as far as tracking people down with these things.”

During the trial, neither side landed on a motive for the crime. Holley maintained his innocence throughout the case, despite cell phone data and surveillance footage placing him at the scene. Holley had been on parole at the time for a previous robbery conviction.

“We are a very religious and close family,” Wilburn’s aunt, Cookie Nelson said. “And for us to get justice like this. It’s a blessing, it’s a blessing from up above. And we just thank God. Today, we thank God.”

During the victim impact statement, the family also made sure to thank the employees who had worked on the case. Wilburn’s sister, Javina Murphy took the stand to read the prepared statement. She started by giving roses to the lead attorney and the witness assistance representative, thanking them and everyone else who had a hand in bringing Wilburn’s killer to justice.

“This family you can see their love for their loved one was just immense and it carried over to the justice that they wanted served. And we were lucky enough and did our due diligence to make sure that happened for them,” Assistant District Attorney Rachel Clark said. “They were just an amazing family and group of people, we – I have received gifts from families before and it just— it doesn’t need to happen, but it just shows they really appreciate the justice that was served and the hard work that we put into the case.” 

The rest of the victim impact statement was a letter from Wilburn’s daughter, Chloe. She’ll be nine years old soon. In her letter, she described how much she loves and misses her dad, and how she holds onto toys she’s long outgrown because he gave them to her. She said she’s sad her got hurt.

“Raising my brothers child is so different,” Murphy said. “To raise somebody else’s child. That’s the most hurtful thing. To raise her without him.”

Murphy said that when she and her brother were young, they lost their father to gun violence. Through tears, she said Chloe is going through what she herself has experienced. But there is one key difference:

The accused killer of Wilburn’s father walked free. Today, Wilburn’s family gets justice.