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17-Year-Old Sentenced In Fatal Westchester Movie Theater Stabbing

Michael Pettiford.
Michael Pettiford. Photo Credit: Yonkers Police Department

A Westchester County teenager is going to spend nearly two decades in prison after pleading guilty for his role in a fatal stabbing at a Yonkers movie theater last year.

Westchester County District Attorney Anthony Scarpino, Jr. announced on Wednesday that Yonkers resident Michael Pettiford, 17, has been sentenced to 18 years in state prison for the fatal stabbing of Daji Thomas at the Ridge Hill Movie Theater.

Pettiford had pleaded guilty to felony counts of manslaughter and robbery in January. Each count included an 18-year sentence, which will run concurrently. The sentence given by the judge was the maximum allowed.

At approximately 12:45 a.m. on April 15 last year, police were dispatched to the Ridge Hill Movie Theater on Fitzgerald Street in Yonkers, where there were reports of a fight that ended when someone was stabbed at the conclusion of a film.

Upon arrival, police located Thomas, 19, who had suffered a stab wound to his chest, police said. Thomas was transported to a local hospital for treatment, but he was pronounced dead a short time later.

According to police, the entire altercation began when Pettiford approached Thomas, taunting and attempting to goad him into a fight, which Thomas declined.

Instead, Pettiford grabbed his cell phone, which resulted in the struggle that ended with the fatal stabbing.

Scarpino said that Pettiford placed Thomas' phone in his pocket and exited the movie theater.

Thomas collapsed to the floor indicating that he could not breathe after being stabbed. Paramedics arrived on the scene and made unsuccessful efforts to save his life. Two knives were recovered at the scene.

Detectives with the Major Case Squad and Crime Scene Units conducted an extensive investigation, which determined that Pettiford was a person of interest.

Police arrested Pettiford on April 18, initially charging him with one count of second-degree murder.

In court, with Thomas' family at his side, Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Strongin read statements from them forgiving Pettiford.

In the statement, Sheila Hamilton characterized her son as a “young man who stood up to his responsibilities” as a son and a father. She described her son’s death as “a parent’s nightmare.”

But she said, “To Michael Pettiford, all the pain you put us through, I am forgiving you.” Another statement was made by the mother of Thomas’ 3-year-old son who said the boy is asking for his father. She also added, “I forgive you, Michael.”

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