116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — A 19-year-old Cedar Rapids man pleaded Friday to lesser charges in the 2021 fatal shooting of a 15-year-old Illinois girl during a gun sale that turned into a “tussle” over money and the gun.
Marshawn Rome Jackson, 19, originally charged with first-degree murder, pleaded to voluntary manslaughter, intimidation with a dangerous weapon, dominion/control of a firearm by a felon and obstructing prosecution.
He faces up to 27 years in prison and must serve a mandatory 10 years before being eligible for parole. His probation on a previous conviction of trafficking stolen weapons also will be revoked, and he will have to serve another five years for a total of 32 years in prison.
Jackson, during the plea hearing, admitted to intentionally shooting Tyliyah Whitis, of Peoria, Ill., during a gun sale July 21, 2021, First Assistant Linn County Attorney Monica Slaughter said after the hearing.
Jackson and Whitis, who was in Cedar Rapids visiting her sister, knew each other and had hung out in the past, Slaughter said.
Whitis was driving her sister’s car, and Jackson and another juvenile were in the back seat, Slaughter said.
Jackson said Whitis wanted to buy a gun from him and wanted to hold it, but Jackson wanted to see the money first. A tussle over the gun began, and Jackson became angry and started getting out of the car. Whitis started accelerating, and Jackson fired the gun, hitting her in the back.
Also, the other juvenile got out of the car and was run over by the car, though not seriously injured, Slaughter said.
Whitis was found dead in the driver’s seat of her sister’s car after it crashed at the Hawthorne Hills Apartment Complex in the 2200 block of C Street SW.
Slaughter said the information came out during recent depositions in the case. She amended the original charge of first-degree murder to voluntary manslaughter because Jackson said he became provoked in the heat of the moment when Whitis accelerated as he was trying to get out.
Jackson, according to court documents, had at least two previous convictions, including being on juvenile probation Oct. 14, 2020, when he picked up his first adult conviction for stealing a vehicle. Officers were able to connect him to that crime through the electronic GPS monitor he was wearing as part of his juvenile probation.
Jackson pleaded to a lesser charge of operating a vehicle without the owner’s consent and was sentenced to 30 days in jail in February 2021.
No details about his juvenile record are in court documents because those records are not public.
Jackson had several probation violations, including not showing up for probation appointments, missing at least seven appointments, abusing illegal substances, struggling to comply with drug testing, missing curfews and failing to gain employment, according to a Dec. 14, 2021, probation report.
Tyliyah’s parents, Michael Whitis of Waterloo and Amanda Guzzle of Peoria, told The Gazette in February they were happy Jackson was behind bars but that they were grieving over their child, “who lit up the room with her smile” and that nothing would bring her back.
“I miss her so much,” Guzzle said. “He doesn’t know the person he took away and what a bright future was ahead of her.”
“I still cry almost every day,” Whitis said. “It upsets me that somebody so young would take another young life.”
Tyliyah attended Harrison Elementary in Cedar Rapids from second to fifth grades — from December 2013 to June 2017 — and started sixth grade at Roosevelt Middle School in 2017 before moving to Peoria with her mother.
Tyliyah had been in Cedar Rapids for a few weeks to visit her older sister, T’yanna Nesby, who is Guzzle’s daughter. Nesby told The Gazette after the shooting that she found out her sister had been shot when she reported her car missing that morning.
A mother of a friend of Jackson’s — Stacey Lynn Shanahan, 41, of Davenport — was charged with helping her son and Jackson flee the city after the shooting. But those charges — being an accessory after the fact and obstruction of prosecution, both aggravated misdemeanors — were dismissed in September.
Slaughter said she dropped the charges because Shanahan’s husband, who told police about his wife helping Jackson after she told him, was dishonest and had accused police of feeding him information. Slaughter said he was not a credible witness.
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