Teen charged with cab driver murder admits guilt in plea arrangement

Anthony Wilson Image
Wednesday, July 11, 2018

DURHAM, NC (WTVD) -- A teenager charged in connection with the August 2016 fatal shooting of a Durham cab driver agreed to a plea deal Wednesday morning.

Ameer Suliman was the cab driver killed nearly four years ago, by shots fired outside the La Quinta Inn and Suites on West Park Drive. The mortally wounded 46-year-old driver staggered inside the hotel lobby, then collapsed there. He died a short time later at the hospital.

Durham police K9 officers and investigators later located three suspects - one near the railroad tracks by the hotel and two others inside a room at the Red Roof Inn.

Authorities said two of the suspects were also charged in connection with an armed robbery that happened 30 minutes before the shooting. Police said a 17-year-old boy told officers he was sitting by a pool clubhouse in the 1400 block of Whispering Oak Lane when two teens asked to borrow his phone. He said he loaned them the phone and the teens called a cab.

The victim said the suspects then robbed him at gunpoint and took his phone, cash, and headphones before leaving in the cab.

Investigators said at the time that they found items that belonged to Suliman, along with a gun they linked to the suspects.

Police charged 17-year-old Zyon McNeil of Durham and a 15-year-old boy from Durham with murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon. A third man, 21-year-old Trayvion Lyons of Durham, was charged with accessory after the fact to murder.

Nearly two years later, McNeil sat stone-faced inside a Durham County courtroom as Judge Orlando Hudson asked him, "Do you enter this plea of your own free will, fully understanding what you're doing, Mr. McNeil?"

"Yes sir," he said.

McNeil's attorney Daniel Meir said his now 18-year-old client made some bad choices before his arrest but could benefit from educational and vocational opportunities available while he's incarcerated. Meir also said it was the juvenile, McNeil's codefendant, who fired the fatal shots.

"He did not have the gun. Whether or not he provided one, he was not the one carrying it, hoping someone would get hurt," Meir said. "He's not the one who shot anybody."

McNeil pled guilty Wednesday to second-degree murder and armed robbery. Like his codefendant who struck an earlier deal, his sentence, counting time served since his arrest, calls for at least 12 years in prison.

McNeil said no when the judge asked if he had anything to say before sentencing, but Meir said his client would have apologized to his victim's wife if he could.

But Suliman's widow was not in the courtroom. Supporters of McNeil, who sat in the rows behind him during the hearing, left quickly with no comment as deputies led him away.