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Man pleads guilty in Durham quadruple murder

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Rodrick Vernard Duncan

A plead deal was reached Tuesday in a decade-old quadruple murder case in Durham.

The execution-style shootings of four young men at a Durham townhouse in 2005 shocked the Triangle, but until Tuesday, no one had come to trial in the case.

The delay frustrated the families of the victims. Lennis Harris Jr., 24, Lajuan Coleman, 27, Jonathan Skinner, 26, and Jamel Holloway, 27, all died.

READ MORE: Family wants resolution in 2005 quadruple slaying
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Four young men died.

In 2005, police said the four men were the targets of a drug-related robbery. Officers responding to the slayings found the four dead men lying on the carpet of a small second-story bedroom, each shot in the head. Investigators said forensic tests showed a 9mm handgun found at the scene was used. Two other men in the townhouse in the Breckenridge subdivision off Hope Valley Road were found wounded.

Almost a year after the killings, a man already in custody on federal drug trafficking charges was indicted. Rodrick Vernard Duncan, now 36, was charged with four counts of first-degree murder.

In court Tuesday, Duncan pleaded guilty to the reduced charges of four counts of second-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, and armed robbery.

The sentencing hearing was a chance for the families of the victims to speak to Duncan face-to-face.

Lajuan Coleman's mother, Sandra, asked him how he could kill his best friend over marijuana.

"You were just like a son to me. I want to know why, just tell me why? He was your best friend."

Harris' father also confronted Duncan.

"I don't understand how a man can shoot people that they know, that they grew up with, that you have laughed and played with as children, how you can lay them down, look them in the eye and shoot them in the head. What kind of a human being can do that?" asked Lennis Harris Sr.

Marsha Harris brought a rose to the hearing because that's what her son often brought her.

"I knew it stood for his love for me," she said.

She said the year of the murder she had just retired and was happy, and then her whole world was flipped upside down.

"My whole life was shattered," she said. "But I still ask God to put it in my heart to forgive you."

Harris' sister and Jonathan Skinner's cousin said she will never have nieces and nephews. She called on black men to stop killing each other.

"I don't know how you sleep at night," said Stacey Harris. "You took four lives."

Some of the victims' families offered Duncan forgiveness before he was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs, including relatives of Jamel Holloway who would have celebrated his birthday Tuesday.

"I miss him a lot, and I'm just here trying to do what I need to do," said Gloria Washington.

Under the plea agreement, Duncan was sentenced to 36-44 years in prison.

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