‘Tragic on so many levels’: Life without parole for ex-UAB football player in Birmingham nursing student murder

A former UAB football player convicted of killing Birmingham nursing student Destiny Washington has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Carlos Stephens, 24, was convicted in April of capital murder in the 2020 shooting of 20-year-old Destiny Washington.

The shooting took place on the UAB campus during the sale of $90 AirPods. Stephens claimed he fired in self-defense after Washington’s friend first drew a gun.

“This case was tragic on so many levels,” Jefferson County District Judge Kechia Davis said at the sentencing hearing Wednesday.

“My hope, my prayer for you, is that this will bring some kind of closure. There were many prayers that went out from both sides this week and I have witnessed that.”

“While you were praying, so was I,” the judge said.

“This is so sad to me because two young lives were taken from Jefferson County. Two young black lives and I have a feeling they were both on the road to great success – Destiny Washington and Mr. Stephens.”

“It makes me sad to have to give that sentence. It saddens me to look at you, Mrs. Washington, as I know all that Destiny has in store for her life, but I pray for both families,” Davis said.

“I’m praying for you too,” she said to Stephens.

“I really thank you all for your loving conduct throughout the process,” she said of both families.

“We felt the presence of love in both families and I appreciate that.”

Carlo Stephens

Carlos Stephens (Birmingham Police Department)

Stephens was represented by attorneys Emory Anthony and Bobby Lendell Davis.

Jefferson County Assistant District Attorneys Jessica Hebson and Ashley Patterson prosecuted the case.

Washington was shot dead on Thursday, December 17, 2020 at 9:40 p.m. in the parking lot of the UAB Student Center on University Boulevard.

The fatal shooting happened during the sale of a pair of $90 AirPods that Washington’s boyfriend sold to Stephen’s girlfriend, a deal brokered through Facebook Marketplace earlier that day.

The transaction went awry amid allegations of counterfeit money and counterfeit AirPods, and ended in Stephens being fatally shot.

Stephens, a former standout football player at Thompson High School who played in his freshman year at UAB, surrendered to police two days later.

Washington’s parents, Randy and Tora Washington, appeared in court on Wednesday and issued an emotional statement, in which they once addressed Stephens.

“Destiny had no choice on December 17, 2020. The decision you made that night to fire a gun at your vehicle has consequences,” said Tora Washington.

“It may not be a consequence that you think is fair, but your parents will get a chance to hear your voice, see your face and hug you. I will never be able to do those things with Destiny on this earth again.”

“I want you to know that the bullet you fired not only took Destiny’s life,” she said, “a piece of my heart was taken as well.”

Destiny Washington Memorial Nursing Scholarship

Randy and Tora Washington, parents of murdered nursing student Destiny Washington, awarded the first Destiny Washington Memorial Nursing Scholarship to Tarrant High senior Madison Rogers. Destiny was also remembered Friday at Lawson State’s graduation. (Special for AL.com)

Tora Washington said her daughter will graduate from Lawson State in nursing in May 2021.

She was in a dual program at UAB and was looking forward to continuing her education at UAB.

“She knew early on that she wanted to help people,” she says. “For career day at age 6 – she dressed up for the role. She wanted to be a nurse. She was a sociable person and didn’t mind helping anyone.”

“Destiny was a beautiful spirit with a big smile that lit up a room when she walked in,” said Tora Washington.

“We cannot explain the heartbreak and pain we endure on a daily basis. I miss her texting everyday just to say I love you. Her dad misses his little girl who ran into the house just to hug him.”

Tora Washington said her daughter’s boyfriend, Keyuntae Moultrie, was also affected.

“This tragedy has left Keonte in a place where life will never be the same for him. He would never have put Destiny in danger and he’s said that from day one,” she said. “And I, as Destiny’s mother, believe that he would do nothing to endanger Destiny’s life.”

“Yes, we are angry because we want our daughter here, live her life and do what she wanted to do,” she said. “I know that God teaches forgiveness and I pray and strive daily to grow in this area.”

“I wouldn’t wish this heartbreak, pain and experience on any other parent,” she said. “It’s a tough fight.”

Carlo Stephens

The family of Carlos Stephens, who was convicted of capital murder in the death of Destiny Washington, prayed outside the Jefferson County Courthouse after Stephens was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on May 18, 2022. (Carol Robinson)

Prosecutors at the trial contended Stephens should be convicted of capital murder in Washington’s death, calling it a senseless, unreasonable, and unnecessary act of violence.

They told the jury they believed Stephens was upset that Washington’s friend was 30 minutes late for their meeting and upset at what followed – including Moultrie trying to sell Stephens a pair of fake AirPods, increasing the previously agreed price and then accusing Stephens of paying with counterfeit money.

However, Stephens’ lawyers claimed their client only fired in self-defense after Washington’s friend pulled a gun on him and threatened to “blow him off.”

Washington and Stephens family members filled the courtroom during the April trial and returned for sentencing on Wednesday.

After the sentencing, more than a dozen of Stephens’ family members were allowed to hug him and speak briefly to him individually.

Afterward, they gathered in front of the courthouse in a large prayer circle and said they would put their trust in God.

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