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Commonwealth's Attorney News Releases

Posted on: August 4, 2023

Commonwealth v. Tremel M. Denis

Norfolk Man Sentenced to 7 Years in Prison for 2021 Manslaughter

NORFOLK, Va. – Today, a Norfolk judge sentenced 22-year-old Tremel McKinley Denis to an active seven years in prison for voluntary manslaughter for the shooting death of 18-year-old Zyron Quadie Jermain Sanders in 2020.

On the afternoon of March 26, 2020, Norfolk Police and Fire Rescue responded to the 1000 block of Fishermans Road and found Mr. Sanders lying deceased outside of his residence with several gunshot wounds to the top of his head, his right arm, the right side of his neck, and his torso. Witnesses told investigators that they had heard several gunshots, seen three people standing over Mr. Sanders’ body taking something from his person, and seen a black four-door sedan with a broken window driving away from the scene. Mr. Sanders’ cellphone was missing from his person when investigators arrived.

A friend of Mr. Sanders told investigators that she believed a person with the Facebook alias “James Harden” shot Mr. Sanders because “Harden” had been messaging her earlier that day asking after Mr. Sanders. The friend identified Mr. Denis as the owner of the “Harden” account and said Mr. Denis had arranged to buy something from Mr. Sanders.

When investigators checked Mr. Sanders’ Facebook messages, they confirmed that the “Harden” account had contacted Mr. Sanders asking to buy a “hammer,” as in a firearm. Mr. Sanders responded with a picture of a black and silver Smith and Wesson .38 Special P+ revolver, and the two parties agreed on a price of $180. The day before the shooting, the “Harden” account messaged another account saying that he was going to buy a gun from “Zek,” which was Mr. Sanders’ nickname, and sent the same photo of the revolver. The other account responded with a suggestion that “Harden” keep the money and take the gun from Mr. Sanders, and “Harden” responded “nah” but also that he had been thinking about doing so. On the date of the shooting, the “Harden” account messaged Mr. Sanders that he was “pulling up now” at 1:24 p.m. Medics pronounced Mr. Sanders deceased at the scene of the shooting at 1:36 p.m. The “Harden” account was deleted within hours of the shooting.

There is no surveillance video of the shooting, but the suspect vehicle was seen on multiple surveillance cameras in the area around the time of the incident. Investigators were able to determine that the vehicle was a 2009 black Saturn Aura with distinctive rims, belonging to a Norfolk woman. On April 9, 2020, the vehicle was stopped by Norfolk Police officers and searched pursuant to a warrant. The vehicle had a blue sticker in the rear window that matched footage of the suspect vehicle, and the rear driver’s side window was different from the other three windows, suggesting that it had been replaced.

The owner of the car was detained, and she claimed to investigators that she had allowed a man whom she did not know to borrow her car on the day of the shooting. She further claimed that, when she woke up the next morning, her car had been returned but that the rear driver’s side window had been broken. The woman’s cell phone location data placed her phone in the vicinity of the shooting on the same day and around the same time of the incident, and her Facebook messages contained a message from “Harden” on the day of the shooting asking her to take him to get the “hammer.” The woman’s boyfriend was also detained, and his cell phone location data also placed him in the vicinity of the shooting around the same time.

Norfolk Police arrested Mr. Denis for possession of a concealed weapon on May 12, 2020. Officers responded to a call about a person with a weapon and pulled over a vehicle Mr. Denis had been riding in the rear driver’s side of with a .38 Special — similar to the gun from the Facebook photo — hidden under the driver’s seat. The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office indicted Mr. Denis on charges of second-degree murder and the use of a firearm in the commission of murder, and a Norfolk grand jury certified the charges in April 2021.

During what was initially docketed to be Mr. Denis’ pre-jury trial hearing on April 19, 2023, Mr. Denis pleaded guilty to the voluntary manslaughter of Mr. Sanders, and Judge Everett A. Martin Jr. accepted the plea. Mr. Denis admitted to investigators that he was present at the scene of the shooting, but Mr. Denis also claimed that Mr. Sanders opened fire first and that one of Mr. Denis’ companions fired the shots that killed Mr. Sanders. Due to the lack of surveillance video or eyewitnesses to what happened inside the car, the Commonwealth entered this plea agreement with Mr. Denis’ defense counsel to ensure Mr. Denis’ accountability in the circumstances surrounding Mr. Sanders’ death.

On Friday, Judge Martin sentenced Mr. Denis to seven active years in prison, with an additional three years suspended on the conditions that Mr. Denis have no contact with Mr. Sanders’ family and that he complete 10 years of good behavior and an indeterminate period of supervised probation.

Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney William S. Maydosz prosecuted Mr. Denis’ case on behalf of the Commonwealth.

If you have information regarding the other individuals involved in this homicide, please call the Norfolk Police Homicide Section at 757-664-7023, contact the CrimeLine, or submit a tip through the P3 Tips app.

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