If a man was simply judged alone by the quality of friends he leaves behind, then Chris Radok was certainly great and mighty.
Just five days after friends and family of the former CL photographer filled Tremont Music Hall to celebrate his life and work at the second annual Radok Fest, many of them packed into a Mecklenburg County courtroom on Thursday for the arraignment of his accused killer, Antoine Young.
Nearly two years have passed since police discovered Radok’s body in his north Charlotte home. Prosecutors say Young broke into Radok’s house and attacked him once the photographer returned home from work. Medical examiners said Radok died from multiple blunt force injuries to his head and chest.
In court, Young entered a plea of guilty to first-degree murder to avoid a death penalty trial. As the prosecution presented gory details of the case to judge for the sentencing phase, many of Radok’s family and friends wept.
So many know and remember Radok for the images he captured on film. Now many of his friends and family are faced with trying to forget the horrific details of bloody crime scene images described in that courtroom. Later, Assistant District Attorney Gabrielle Macon told reporters that one crime scene photo was the worst she's ever had to review.
Supporters are also faced with trying to forget the image of their friend’s killer, as he sat slumped in his chair, shackled and dressed in an orange jumpsuit. For most of the proceeding, he stared at the floor only turning to briefly look around when prosecutors asked for the family and friends of Radok to stand. Nearly half of the courtroom stood.
A powerful statement was made when no one stood in support of Young when his attorney asked if anyone from his client’s family was present.
Young’s attorney described details of a troubled past to the judge. He explained that Young’s parents had been incarcerated, and how his client was born behind prison walls. He told the judge that Young’s mother was having extreme difficulty coping, especially since Young’s brother was a victim of homicide years ago. He also described his client as a paranoid schizophrenic who was off his medication at the time of the murder. It proved too difficult for one Radok supporter to listen; he briefly exited the courtroom.
Young was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Following the sentencing, Radok’s brother Uwe, who traveled from England to attend, told reporters that he had absolutely no concern for his brother’s killer but accepted a plea deal in order to avoid years of appeals in pursuit of the death penalty. “I don’t care [about Antoine Young]. It’s what he did to Chris that matters, so I don’t give him a thought, I’m afraid. He’ll never harm anyone again. I’m happy with that."
Young also pleaded guilty to two other charges - robbery with a dangerous weapon and felony larceny of a motor vehicle. In addition, he also signed a document that gives the state the right to destroy evidence from the case, making a future appeal seemingly impossible.
As Radok’s stanch supporters gathered outside the courtroom following the sentencing, they shared tears, hugs and memories of their brother and friend and discussed plans for Radok Fest 3.
For a look at some of Radok’s work, visit www.RadokPhotography.com.