DOJ Seal

Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Middle District of Tennessee

For Immediate Release

Monday, October 28, 2019
Donald Q. Cochran
, United States Attorney
Contact: David Boling

Lengthy Prison Sentences Handed Down in Continuing Violent Crime Investigations in Public Housing Areas

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – October 28, 2019 – Four Nashville men received lengthy prison sentences last week for a series of violent crimes connected to investigations in or near the J.C. Napier and Tony Sudekum public housing developments, announced U.S. Attorney Don Cochran for the Middle District of Tennessee. 

Rodrecus M. Smith, aka, Lil Rod, 31, was sentenced on Thursday to 34 years in prison in connection with the October 2013 murder of Mario McKnight, during the robbery of another person.  On that day, Smith had gone to a home in the Edgehill community of Nashville to rob a drug dealer during a high stakes dice game.  Armed with a Mac/Tek style firearm with an extended magazine, Smith robbed the drug dealer of $5,000 and pointed the weapon at others, threatening to shoot anyone who interfered.

During the robbery, Mario McKnight was in the immediate area picking up laundry from a dry cleaning van and in an attempt to escape the violence, he jumped into the back of the van and urged the driver to leave the area.  As the van drove past, Smith fired into the van, striking McKnight and killing him.  Smith was then driven away from the area by Martez Parham, who conspired with Smith to commit the robbery.  Smith was subsequently indicted on state charges but remained a fugitive until June 2014, when he was arrested by the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force.  Smith was indicted by a federal grand jury in June 2016.  While in custody and awaiting trial, Smith made numerous attempts to prevent witnesses from testifying against him.  During the third day of a jury trial in December 2018, Smith abruptly pleaded guilty to all charges, including conspiracy to commit robbery affecting commerce; carrying, brandishing and discharging a firearm resulting in death; possession of ammunition by a convicted felon; and two counts of witness tampering. 

Darryl Starks, 35, was sentenced on Thursday to 15 years in prison.  Starks was charged in connection with four shootings, all of which occurred in or adjacent to the J.C. Napier neighborhood, three of which were precipitated by Starks’ belief that Martez Parham had been involved in the robbery and murder in the Edgehill incident described above, which resulted in the death of Starks’ friend, Mario McKnight.  Starks pleaded guilty to the charges in April 2017.

Starks participated in the shooting of Joshua Woods on October 16, 2014, whom he believed to have sided with Parham during a physical altercation between Starks and Parham. Woods was shot multiple times but survived. 

On March 23, 2015, Starks shot into a vehicle with a 12-gauge shotgun, after becoming involved in another physical altercation during a dice game.  No one was injured during that incident. 

On July 16, 2015, Starks drove another person through the J.C. Napier neighborhood looking for Martez Parham and Ernest Eddie.  That person was armed with a semi-automatic handgun and intended to shoot them.  Upon seeing them, the individual fired at them and missed, but struck a woman who was holding a young child in her arms.  The bullet struck the woman in the head and caused life-threatening injuries.

A few hours later, during the early morning hours of July 17, 2015, Starks returned to the J.C. Napier neighborhood with Terrance Kimbrough, armed with a rifle and a shotgun.  Starks and Kimbrough engaged in a shootout with the brother of the female victim shot earlier.  Two other innocent women were struck by gunfire during this incident and received medical treatment.  Starks and Kimbrough were taken into custody on July 28, 2015, after an extensive manhunt by law enforcement.  Kimbrough was previously sentenced in March to 42 years in prison.

Ernest Eddie, 30, was sentenced on Wednesday, to 61 months in prison.  Eddie was indicted in August 2015, with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, in connection with the shooting incident on July 16, 2015.  Through witness interviews and social media posts, investigators determined that Eddie, and Martez Parham, had been in possession of a .45 caliber handgun during this incident.  Eddie pleaded guilty in September 2015.

Martez Parham, 27, was also sentenced on Wednesday to 27 years in prison for the robbery and conspiracy; witness tampering; and being a convicted felon in possession of firearms.  Parham pleaded guilty in May 2017.

These cases were investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives and the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sunny A.M. Koshy and Philip H. Wehby.  This is part of an on-going effort to curb violent crime in the public housing areas of Nashville and investigations are continuing.

# # #

Nashville Field Division