Marlena Cook spoke about how she taught her children the difference between right and wrong and raised them not to lie.
Cook appeared on Friday in Baltimore Circuit Court to weigh in on a plea agreement offered to her son, Devin Wilson. It called for him to serve 10 years in prison, with all but six years suspended, plus five years’ probation on a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter instead of second-degree murder.
But Cook did not ask the court to show leniency toward her son. Instead, she urged a judge to reject the plea agreement — because she felt that it was too lenient for what he had done.
On Dec. 30, 2022, Wilson, 18, shot and killed his younger brother, 8-year-old Dylan King, with a 12-gauge shotgun while he was watching him and three other siblings at a home on Presbury Street between North Smallwood and North Pulaski streets in West Baltimore.
“I love my son. I do,” Cook said. “But this was wrong. It was so wrong.”
As she spoke, Wilson, who wore a yellow jail jumpsuit, buried his head at the defense table. He shook throughout the court proceedings, and, at times, the only sound that could be heard in the courtroom was the clanging of his restraints.
Wilson at the time told his stepfather that the child accidentally shot himself, which was not true, prosecutors said. Baltimore Police reported that their investigation revealed that Wilson had recently taken up an interest in firearms and either sold or traded a puppy to acquire the shotgun.
Dylan was a third grader at Matthew A. Henson Elementary School and known for his infectious smile. He loved sports and enjoyed playing video games such as “Fortnite.” His favorite color was red.
About 60 family members, friends and loved ones gathered to remember him at a vigil that featured balloons and candles.
Cook, along with Dylan’s father, Roland King, sat on the left side of the courtroom, while more than a half-dozen other loved ones sat on the right side.
Assistant State’s Attorney Kurt Bjorklund said he spoke and met with the parents on multiple occasions to discuss the case and respected and understood their position.
“This case in particular is extremely tragic,” Bjorklund said.
“This never should have happened,” he later added. “Dylan should be here.”
But Bjorklund said the state had information that it likely would not have been able to introduce at trial and reported that additional investigative efforts did not turn up more evidence. The punishment, he said, fell within the sentencing guidelines.
Bjorklund said the basis of the guilty plea to involuntary manslaughter was that Wilson acted in a grossly negligent manner and caused the death of his younger brother.
Wilson, he said, told prosecutors that he was manipulating the shotgun in front of his siblings when it went off.
Later, Bjorklund turned and addressed people in the courtroom. He said he had listened to hours of Wilson’s phone calls at the Baltimore Central Booking & Intake Center.
Though he decided to take responsibility in court, Wilson, family members and friends in the calls “tried to diminish what he did,” Bjorklund said.
“All of those conversations were wrong. They were dishonest,” Bjorklund said. “He did it.”
Meanwhile, Brian Murphy, Wilson’s attorney, said his client has to go to sleep every night thinking about what he’s done.
Murphy pointed out how Wilson had been shaking and crying throughout the hearing and described his reactions as “the real thing.”
“This crime has ripped this family asunder,” Murphy said. “There are no winners in this case.”
Wilson’s grandmother, Tammy Magruder Cook, said her grandson has always been a “gentle giant.” His aunt, Marissa Cook, described him as her “giant teddy bear.”
When he was given the opportunity to speak, Wilson said, “I just want to say sorry to my family.”
Circuit Judge John Addison Howard accepted the plea agreement and imposed the sentence, which also included a requirement for Wilson to undergo mental health screening and complete any directed treatment.
Howard said he felt like the punishment was appropriate under the circumstances. Wilson, he noted, was barely 18 years old at the time.
“I cannot imagine a worse tragedy,” Howard said. “It is a terrible tragedy, and there’s unfortunately no way to truly fix what happened.”
As she left the hearing, Marlena Cook declared, “They let a murderer get away.”
She wore a T-shirt that read, “Forever Dylan. Mommy Misses You,” as well as two buttons with his picture on them.
“Dylan is missed,” she said outside the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse. “I just wanted justice for him.”