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Moorhead taxi shooting suspect slated to change plea

Willie Sparkman Jr. previously pleaded not guilty to killing Abdullahi Mohamed Abdullahi during a botched robbery.

WILLIE SPARKMAN MUGSHOT
Willie Alonzo Sparkman Jr.
Clay County Jail photo
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FARGO — A man accused of killing a taxi driver last year during a botched robbery in Moorhead is slated to change his plea.

A plea hearing is scheduled for Aug. 19 for 19-year-old Willie Alonzo Sparkman Jr., of Moorhead. He is charged in Clay County Court with second-degree murder, attempted aggravated robbery and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery. He previously pleaded not guilty to the charges.

A plea agreement had not been filed as of Thursday, Aug. 11, so it’s unclear what charges Sparkman would plead to or what type of guilty plea he would enter. He could spend as long as 40 years in prison, but prosecutor and defense sentencing recommendations have not been made public.

A in a formal vest and button-down shirt sits in front of a brick wall.
Abdullahi Mohamed Abdullahi
Contributed

The charges stem from an early morning shooting on May 5, 2021, in south Moorhead. Prosecutors alleged Sparkman and his then-girlfriend, 18-year-old Kristy Thi Vo, of Fargo, called Doyle’s Yellow Checker Cab employee Abdullahi Mohamed Abdullahi to an apartment at 3015 20th St. S. with intentions to rob the 24-year-old taxi driver. Sparkman then shot Abdullahi before fleeing in a vehicle, police said.

Prosecutors alleged Vo drove the vehicle away from the scene.

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Video showed Abdullahi driving away after being shot, according to court documents. He crashed his taxi in a nearby ditch and was later found dead by law enforcement.

Sparkman and Vo devised the plan to rob people so they could pay rent, according to court documents.

Police said Sparkman was involved in two robberies before the shooting. He was charged in Cass County District Court, where prosecutors alleged he used a knife to try to rob a woman on May 4, 2021, in Fargo. About 40 minutes before the shooting, Sparkman robbed another Doyle’s taxi driver at gunpoint, police alleged.

Sparkman’s attorney, Michael Minard, was successful in getting his client’s confession to the shooting barred from being presented at trial. The attorney also tried to move the case to another county. Minard claimed media coverage would make it difficult to find an impartial jury.

Clay County Judge Tammy Merkins denied the change of venue.

Minard did not return a message left by The Forum.

Vo was charged with conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery. The murder and aggravated robbery charge claims she was liable for Sparkman’s crimes.

She has pleaded not guilty in the case. Her trial is scheduled for Nov. 7.

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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