Marcus Shanklin, 20, was charged with killing LaDon Boyd.

Marcus Shanklin – facing life behind bars for a first-degree murder charge – on Thursday heard the news that gave him a start at a new life with his “Big Brother.”
After nearly 16 hours of deliberations over three days, a Sedgwick County jury acquitted Shanklin, 20, of murder and three other charges: aggravated battery, aggravated assault and firing into an occupied vehicle.
The charges stemmed from a Jan. 17 drive-by shooting near 13th and Estelle that killed LaDon Boyd, 22, and left Antoine Christen, 17, without a right eye. Prosecutors said the shooting was gang-related.
As the not-guilty verdicts were read, Shanklin looked straight ahead as one of his attorneys, Dan Monnat, patted him on the back. Family members and friends of Shanklin wept and let out sighs.
Boyd’s family didn’t attend the trial.
Perhaps no one was as relieved by the verdict as Steve Long, who was matched for several years with Shanklin through the Sedgwick County Big Brothers and Big Sister program and came from Tennessee to watch the trail.
“There was never a question in our mind that he had nothing to do with it,” Long said after the verdict.
Long was Shanklin’s Big Brother from 1990 until Long moved to Indiana in 1993. The two built such a strong relationship that Shanklin would spend weeks at a time with Long, his wife, Denise, and their children.
When the Longs found out Shanklin had been arrested, they immediately offered assistance – both emotionally and financially.
“We didn’t want to take the chance that he didn’t get the absolute best,” Steve Long said. The Longs took out a loan and asked Monnat and Sal Intagliata to defend Shanklin.
According to testimony, the shooting erupted after a brief gang confrontation at a convenience store. As the cars were driven on 13rh Street, shots were fired.
Immediately after the shooting, Christon identified the gunman by a nickname and description that matched Shanklin. But by the preliminary hearing in March and during the trial, Christon testified that he couldn’t remember who fired at him.
Assistant District Attorney Kevin O’Connor said Christon’s change wasn’t a surprise because he had expressed concern that he would be the target of retaliation. “It’s not unusual that this happens in a gang-related case.”
Jurors said Christon’s inability to identify Shanklin and the lack of physical evidence were crucial in their verdict.
“Most of us probably had a gut feeling that he was guilty,” juror Delbert White said. “But there wasn’t enough evidence.”
Shanklin said he appreciated the support he received.
“It makes me feel real good that I got people that really love me, that don’t want to see me go down for something I didn’t do,” he said.
With his acquittal, Shanklin will start a new life. He will move to Tennessee with the Longs and their three sons, ages 9, 8 and 5.
“Marcus,” Steve Long said, “is part of our family.”

By Joe Rodriguez