Life Sentence for the Shooting Death of a 15-year-old

Lavon Bernard Julius, age 43, originally from Columbia, was convicted Wednesday afternoon by a Lexington County jury, after approximately thirty minutes of deliberations, for the Murder of Zeloni Ellison, age 15. The trial began on Monday, December 11, 2023, with jury selection. The Honorable Walton J. McLeod, IV, presided over the trial and sentenced Julius to Life in the South Carolina Department of Corrections on the murder charge. Julius will spend the rest of his natural life in prison and will not be eligible for parole.

On January 29, 2022, at 10:40 p.m., Julius shot Zeloni four times killing him outside of his grandmother’s apartment off of Roberts street in the town of Lexington. Zeloni’s mother was inside of the apartment on the couch when she heard gunshots. When she ultimately looked outside, she saw Julius and asked him about the gunshots. Julius told her that “buddy was over there laying on the ground” as he walked around the corner of the apartment unit with her. When law enforcement arrived on scene, they saw Julius near Zeloni’s body, but then Julius walked away from the officers without admitting to being involved in the shooting.

After the shooting, witnesses testified that Julius appeared calm and nonchalant as if nothing happened. While law enforcement was on scene, Julius walked behind the apartment building and hid the murder weapon. The weapon was located the next day and forensic testing confirmed that it was the weapon used to kill Zeloni. Julius ultimately walked back outside of his apartment after being urged to by his wife. The jury had the opportunity to watch the officer’s body camera footage of the initial statement Julius gave to law enforcement. Julius initially indicated that he was inside his house when the shooting occurred, then he indicated that he was outside when the shooting occurred. The officer testified that during his conversation with Julius it appeared that at one point Julius was reliving the shooting when he described the gunshots and then threw his hands up. Julius also denied having a weapon, however, he was ultimately identified as the shooter.

The testimony at trial revealed that the kid irritated Julius because this night was not the first time Zeloni may have asked Julius for a cigarette. Early that day, Julius was at a family member’s house where he was drinking and then drove home with his daughter. When Julius returned home, Zeloni was standing outside talking on the phone. Julius then walked his daughter to their apartment, let her in, and then walked up to Zeloni. During the trial, a friend who was on the phone with Zeloni testified that he heard Zeloni ask a man for a cigarette followed by the man saying “is you good” and then the shooting took place. He then heard Zeloni trying to breathe and then heard Zeloni’s mom saying Zeloni’s name.

Senior Assistant Solicitors Robby McNair and Sutania A. Fuller handled the prosecution of this case for the Eleventh Circuit Solicitor’s Office. The Lexington Police Department conducted the investigation. Senior Assistant Solicitor McNair argued to the jury that he “cannot make sense of something so senseless.” He told the jury that “it was human nature to want a better reason” explaining why someone would do this. But it was not “Zeloni Ellison’s fault that Lavon Julius did not have a better reason for killing a 15-year-old kid.”

Julius has prior convictions for strong-arm robbery, assault and battery high and aggravated, and assault with intent to kill. Julius will be transported to the South Carolina Department of Corrections to begin serving his life sentence.


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