• Scott Shellenberger

Laurel man convicted of first-degree murder for 2020 death of Essex man

By Lilly Price | The Baltimore Sun • August 31, 2022 | Original Source


A Baltimore County jury convicted a Laurel man of first-degree murder Tuesday for the fatal shooting of 21-year-old Zeshaan Toppa in October 2020.


Keonta Adrian Skipwith, 20, was convicted of first-degree murder, attempted armed robbery and firearm offenses. Skipwith was 18 when he tried to rob Toppa during a drug transaction in Essex on the night of Oct. 9, 2020. The robbery turned into a physical altercation, and Skipwith shot Toppa in the abdomen, according to the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office.


Paramedics pronounced Toppa dead at the scene. Toppa was with a 14-year-old and 16-year-old during the shooting. Police also arrested Donnell Terrell Griffin III of Middle River on murder charges related to Toppa’s death. He pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in November 2021. His sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 10.


The jury deliberated for five hours after the five-day trial and convicted Skipwith on all charges. His sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 2. In a statement, Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger thanked Baltimore County Police for “bringing Keonta Skipwith to justice for his violent use of a firearm clearly motivated by greed.”


Assistant Public Defender Craig Acorn represented Skipwith and said that Toppa’s killing was in self-defense.


“This was a tragic situation from events that spiraled well beyond any intent — at least from Keonta Skipwith, who was defending himself during a fight that got out of control,” Acorn said in a statement. “Mr. Skipwith was surrounded by his loving, supportive family and friends throughout the trial. We hope that the judge recognizes this support at sentencing, as well as the biases against young Black men like Mr. Skipwith that portray self-defense as isolated violent actions.”


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