Thursday, June 30 2022

GREENSBORO — Two years after prosecutors said they could seek the death penalty for Brittany McKinney, who is accused of killing her daughter and two others on New Years Day 2020, she remains in county jail of Guilford pending an assessment of his state of mind at the time of the bizarre crime.

McKinney is represented by Guilford County Deputy Public Defender Wayne Baucino, a veteran of capital offense cases. In December, he filed a report from a defense expert who spent a year and a half on the case.


Guilford County Jail, on condition

“It’s his opinion, with a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that Brittany was insane at the time,” Baucino said.

McKinney is charged with the shooting deaths of 61-year-old army veteran Jerry Griffin, 10-year-old Mkenzie Denise McKinney, his daughter, and 2-year-old niece Serenity Taliem Rose. Their bodies were found in a house she shared with some of the victims.

Officers were conducting a wellness check at 3627 Sweet Birch Drive in a southeast Greensboro subdivision when they discovered the grisly scene around 11:15 a.m. on January 1, 2020.

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McKinney and Griffin’s daughter were dead when the police arrived. Serenity later died of her injuries.

According to autopsy reports, both girls were shot in the face.

Griffin was shot in the back of the neck.

Brittany Christina McKinney

Flowers, balloons and photos lie outside the home on Sweet Birch Drive where three people were killed on the first day of 2020. Brittany Christina McKinney has been charged in the January 1 shooting death of her 10-year-old daughter, Mkenzie; niece Serenity Taliem Rose, 2; and his friend Jerry Griffin, 61. McKinney, 29, was put on suicide watch at the prison. The murders marked the start of a deadly year in Greensboro, with a record 61 murders in 2020.

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It was a crime that sent shockwaves through the city due to its horror as well as its inexplicable nature.

“It’s unreal,” Velma Cornelius, who drove Mkenzie’s school bus, said at the time after adding flowers to a growing memorial in front of the house.

A neighbor said she couldn’t forget the image of 2-year-old Serenity, bloodied, taken out on a stretcher as paramedics scrambled to save her life.

“I almost fainted,” said the neighbor, who asked not to be identified.

Investigators have not offered a motive and are still trying to determine what led to the killings.

Brittany Christina McKinney

Lisa Campos (right) and her daughter Laila, 9, lived near the victims and knew Mkenzie, the 10-year-old child who was shot. Campos planned to take Laila and another girl to bereavement counseling offered by the school district.

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The house was a rental and the inhabitants had not lived there for a long time, according to neighbors. Cornelius, the bus driver, said Mkenzie was not on her route the previous school year, although she made a good impression.

“She was calm,” Cornelius said.

Police then apprehended McKinney at a nearby convenience store. Officers responding to an unrelated call were able to link McKinney to a hit-and-run accident that took place around 11:30 a.m. – shortly after the bodies were discovered – at East Wendover Avenue and North English Street involving a 2011 GMC vehicle belonging to Griffon.

According to the police report, the GMC was traveling west in the center lane of Wendover Avenue when it veered off the road and struck a utility pole before colliding with another vehicle. Witnesses told police the driver got out and left on foot.

Brittany Christina McKinney

Scene from the 2020 New Year’s Eve shooting in Greensboro, in which Brittany Christina McKinney is accused of shooting three people, including her daughter.

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Sister Delilah Merritt, who lives out of state, recounted a conversation she had with McKinney after the shooting.

“She said, ‘I killed everyone. I shot everyone in the house,'” Merritt told a local TV station.

In her first court appearance, McKinney stepped into a red jumpsuit, which indicates an inmate who should be given special treatment for reasons ranging from suicide to behavioral issues. She stood emotionless as the names and ages of each of the victims were read aloud.

Prior to the shooting, the only blight on McKinney’s criminal record was a traffic violation in Onslow County, officials say.

The prosecution initially filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty, but there was never a formal hearing.

McKinney was transferred to a state psychiatric hospital in February 2020 for a mental health evaluation which later determined she was deemed fit to proceed to trial. She was returned to Guilford County Jail in August 2020.

McKinney’s defense hired a psychiatrist to assess McKinney’s mental state at the time of the alleged offense, which is separate from his ability to pursue a trial. Dr Moira Artigues wrote that “to a reasonable degree of medical certainty” McKinney “meets the definition of a finding of insanity” at the time of the murders, according to the court filing.

“There is ample evidence to suggest Ms. McKinney was psychotic…at the time she committed these acts,” wrote Artigues, who interviewed McKinney, viewed police footage and spoke to the officers who arrested her.

Once the defense filed a notice that McKinney was going to plead insanity, the state had the right to have McKinney evaluated by its own psychiatric expert, Baucino said.

A judge has since signed a plea request that McKinney be evaluated by the state psychiatric hospital for its own determination of his mental capacity at the time of the crimes.

“The problem is Central Regional Hospital and their experts and doctors are just bombarded with mental health inquiries regarding determinations of fitness to prosecute,” said Assistant District Attorney Chris Parrish, who is now the lead prosecutor. in charge of the case. “My understanding is that we are just online.”

Had he lived, Griffin would have had another birthday on March 17. His Facebook page, still active, is full of messages.

“You will always be remembered and you will always be loved!” wrote her daughter Gerri Griffin. “I wish nothing more that you had more time here on this Earth!”

Contact Nancy McLaughlin at 336-373-7049 and follow @nmclaughlinNR on Twitter.


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