CLEVELAND — At a hearing Tuesday afternoon, Raysean Howard pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 23 years to life in prison for the 2019 murder of Lyric Lawson, a 6-year-old girl who was shot and killed at her home on Cleveland’s East Side during a drive-by shooting.
Howard pleaded guilty to murder, attempted murder and firearms charges as part of a plea deal with prosecutors. He also pleaded guilty to unrelated drug charges. As part of the plea agreement, Howard will be eligible for parole after serving 23 years.
Howard was arrested one month after the October 2019 shooting in which prosecutors say he used a high-powered rifle to fire two dozen shots into the home. Lyric and five of her siblings and cousins were asleep in the home at the time.
Lyric's mother, Ometrice Selmon, addressed Howard directly in her powerful and emotional victim's impact statement.
"Not only did you take my child, you took my life. There is no comfort in my own home. When my child hears a [gun shot], there's no more ducking down and there's no ignoring it. They are terrified. My child slept in the closet. You can't understand to hear a child scream in the night because they can't go to sleep and there's nothing you can do about it."
Prosecuting attorney Brian Radigan told Judge Nancy Fuerst that the evidence in the case is incomprehensibly tragic, specifically the body camera videos from first responders that arrived on scene to find Lyric with a gunshot wound to the head.
"These officers coming in and seeing Lyric is something I will never get out of my head. I can't comprehend what those officers saw when they walked in," Radigan said. "We are lucky, we are lucky that Lyric is the only one that is dead. These are the types of crimes that ruin communities. They ruin families. And Mr. Howard has to pay for that."
Selmon described the interior of the home following the shooting as the inside of a pencil sharpener with debris and splintered wood blanketing the living room where the children slept. A total of 28 shots were fired between Howard and another shooter that has not been publicly identified.
"You have ripped my family apart. You cannot understand the extent of what you have done. My child will never grow to graduate. I’ll never see my daughter go to prom," Selmon said. "My daughter wanted to become famous so she could buy a house for her family. She will never be able to accomplish this goal. Never. My kids slept together every day. Every day my kids slept together. They have never been apart. You do not understand what this is doing to me."
When given the opportunity to address Lyric's family and loved ones, Howard repeatedly apologized as tears streamed down his face.
At the hearing, the judge asked Howard to identify others involved in the shooting. He initially remained quiet, but then said one of them is dead. After a private discussion inside the judge’s chambers, the hearing resumed and Howard was sentenced.