Andre Bognuda takes plea deal in 2013 shooting death of Salisbury teenager
SALISBURY — A Salisbury man will serve 20 to 25 years in prison for the murder of Abraham Iman Jenkins, a teenager who was shot in September 2013 while walking from the West Horah Street boarding house where he lived to meet his girlfriend.
Andre Rynell Bognuda was arrested during a traffic stop nearly an hour after Jenkins was shot. A Salisbury police officer stopped a vehicle in which Bognuda was a passenger at 3:50 p.m. on Knox Street.
On Monday, Bognuda, now 26, accepted an Alford plea in a case that, had it gone to trial, would have depended on what seemed like little forensic evidence. But multiple witnesses placed Bognuda at the crime scene and said they saw him running from the area. He lost a flip-flop at the scene that was tested for DNA evidence, with nothing conclusive found.
By accepting an Alford plea in the case, Bognuda essentially considered it in his best interest to plead guilty, and the court treats him as being guilty whether or not he admits guilt, Rowan County District Attorney Brandy Cook explained.
“The plea today took into consideration the evidence in the case as well as balancing the various levels of cooperation by some witnesses. Our office has worked closely with Abraham Jenkins’ family, and they are in agreement to the resolution of his case with this plea,” Cook said.
A good son
Jenkins, 19, worked in landscaping for Summit Developers in Salisbury. He had been employed with the company for nearly two years before his death. He and his father, Roosevelt, a local minister, moved to North Carolina from Detroit to escape the violence there, Roosevelt Jenkins told the Post in 2013.
Jenkins moved to North Carolina in 2001 and Abraham often visited him until he moved to Rowan County in 2011. Abraham had lived at the West Horah Street boarding house with a cousin, Jarrod. He was leaving that day to meet his girlfriend, Da’Qwonda Cox.
Cox told the Post in 2013 that she was on the phone with Abraham before he was killed. Cox said she heard an argument between Abraham and someone else, but she was unable to understand any words.
She was at the opposite end of the street when she heard gunshots. Cox said by the time she arrived, Abraham was on the ground. She held his hand until he took his final breath, she said.
The shooting occurred about 2:50 p.m. Bognuda was arrested about an hour later during the unrelated traffic stop on Knox Street.
According to a medical examiner’s report, Jenkins was shot from behind. A Time Warner Cable employee who was in the area about the time of the shooting tried to perform life-saving measures but was not able to get a pulse.
Shirley Smith Jenkins, Abraham’s mother, who lives out of state, wrote a letter saying the teen was her oldest son and a good son. She said he often carried bags of groceries for elderly people who lived in his neighborhood. She said Bognuda changed the course of her family’s lives.
She said in her letter that her son was supposed to get married and have children and, because of Bognuda, he would never get that chance.
A letter was also read from the teen’s aunt, who also lives out of the state.
Roosevelt Jenkins read from a Bible passage about the death of Abel at the hands of his brother, Cain. He later said he forgives Bognuda because it’s the only way he can do to move forward.
Jenkins said he felt as though Monday’s hearing did provide a sense of closure, but he would have liked to hear an apology from Bognuda. The minister said he still has mixed emotions about his son’s murder, saying Bognuda did a cowardly thing by shooting his son in the back as he was running away.
“I hope he finds it in his heart to change. If not, then trust me, there are people badder than him (in prison),” he said.
Jenkins said he believes the system failed Bognuda, who has an extensive criminal record that includes assault, drug possession, and carrying a concealed weapon.
No motive was ever given for the murder, but Jenkins said his son was not the intended target that day. He said Bognuda shot the wrong person.
Jenkins said he is appreciative to those in the community who bravely spoke with police investigators about what they witnessed that day.
Assistant District Attorney Tim Gould said there was no significant evidence found on Bognuda’s hands that would indicate he held the gun used to kill Abraham Jenkins. No gun was ever found.
Bognuda has been in the Rowan County jail since his September 2013 arrest. He was originally given a $1 million bond, which was increased by $10,000 after he was charged in 2016 with furnishing controlled substances to other inmates. Authorities said a former county detention center officer provided Bognuda with a cellphone, 38 grams of marijuana, two cigarette lighters and loose tobacco.
This year, Bognuda was charged with possession of a firearm by a felon.
While in the Rowan County Detention Center awaiting trial, Bognuda was found with the items after detention center officers conducted a check of his cell. While searching a broken air conditioning unit, officers found a piece of a Bible with marijuana wrapped inside, another lighter and loose tobacco.
Bognuda could have received life in prison for the original first-degree murder charge and 15 years for the drug and weapons charges, which were consolidated in the plea bargain.
Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.
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