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Lennon pleads guilty to homicide charge in 5-year-old’s death

SoVaNow.com / March 02, 2021
Appearing in Halifax County Circuit Court in shackles and dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit, Kory Lennon of Nathalie pleaded guilty Monday to felony homicide and felony child abuse in the beating death of 5-year-old Christian Sydnor on Memorial Day 2019.

Circuit Judge Kim White accepted the plea and pronounced Lennon guilty of the crimes, which carry up prison time of up to 40 years on the felony homicide conviction alone. Lennon also pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession of a firearm while being under a protective order.

The plea by the 23-year-old defendant was arranged with prosecutors after Lennon and his defense counsel, Charles Cosby of Richmond, agreed to waive his right to a trial by jury and right to appeal to a higher court. Unlike with a plea agreement, in which prosecutors generally will recommend the terms of punishment, the question of prison time for Lennon will be determined at a subsequent sentencing hearing.

In remarks to the court, Cosby indicated that at that sentencing hearing, he will focus on the traumatic effects of a PTSD diagnosis on Lennon’s behavior. In Monday’s hearing he emphasized his client’s actions to get medical attention for the rising South Boston kindergarten student once it became apparent that Christian had become unresponsive after repeated beatings.

Evidence presented in court showed that Lennon and his girlfriend at the time, Tonja Sydnor, Christian’s mother, had beaten the child over a span of two days before his death. Tonja Sydnor is being tried separately for second degree murder.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Tracy Quackenbush Martin read a statement of facts in the case that described in wrenching detail the brutality of the punishment meted out on the child.

“Christian Sydnor died after being beaten by Mr. Lennon,” said Martin, pointing to the findings contained in the child’s autopsy report while further citing the anticipated testimony of the medical examiner.

Linear markings found on the child’s body were consistent with leather belts found in his bedroom, the scene of the crime. In a court-authorized search of the Old Cluster Springs Road home where Lennon, Tonja and Christian Sydnor lived, the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office collected evidence and found that a railing on the side of the child’s crib, which had been converted into a bed, was cracked in the middle. One belt was found draped over a railing, and another belt was found among items belonging to Lennon. Blood was smeared on two walls, the apparent result of forced wall squats that the mother and boyfriend inflicted on Christian as a form of punishment.

“One belt was draped over the child’s bed, some belts were looped. The looped abrasions were consistent with the doubled-up edge of a belt. Many contusions were u-shaped, consistent with the shape of the buckle on the belts,” said Martin.

Sydnor had numerous contusions on his head, cheek and beneath his eyes. He had a total of 51 contusions and abrasions over his entire body. He was beaten on his neck, chest, abdomen, back, buttocks, shoulder, arms, fingertips, hips, and back of thighs.

The pathology report diagnosis was brunt force trauma to the head, brunt force trauma to the torso, and extremities. Also, Christian Sydnor suffered from acute and chronic inflammation of the lungs. His cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head, torso, extremities, in a setting of forced exercise.

Seeking leniency for his client at the upcoming sentencing hearing, Lennon’s attorney expressed how he tried to seek help for the child.

“My client was the one to check on the child and saw he was not breathing and called the mother to return home,” said Cosby, adding Lennon was the one who called 911.

After initially telling authorities that Christian had suffered his injuries in a bicycle accident, Lennon gave further statements to police admitting to more guilty actions on his part. Eventually, Lennon admitted to whipping the child both on Sunday, May 26 and Monday, May 27.

In the initial 911 call that Lennon made after Christian had become non-responsive, “he had whooped the child and he was not breathing,” said Martin.

During Lennon’s first interview with police, shortly after placing the emergency call, he stated Christian had sustained injuries after falling off his bicycle. That conversation took place after he and Tonja Syndor set out to take the child to the hospital ER, meeting up with police and rescue personnel at a Riverdale car wash.

In subsequent remarks to police, Lennon claimed the mother had whipped Christian and he knew nothing about the marks all over the child’s body. Also, Lennon described having disciplined the child earlier in the day by making him perform push-ups and wall squats. Later, Lennon admitted to disciplining the child with a belt to get his attention.

“He described the child as wiggling and he might have hit him in the face,” said Martin, adding Lennon later admitted he might have been too aggressive with the child.

Christian Sydnor was home alone with Lennon while his mother was away disposing of trash. During this time, Lennon went to check on the child and found him not breathing right and his eyes were half-open.
“Lennon said he had gone too far and that’s when he called 911,” said Martin.

In a letter written by Lennon to Tonja Sydnor, Christian’s mother who was also in jail, Lennon said that he was sorry for the hurt he caused and that he had told the truth about everything. Tonja Sydnor will be tried separately in a jury trial set to begin April 19.

The date of Lennon’s sentencing hearing will be set this Thursday in Circuit Court and the expected hearing will to take place in the next two to three months.


Guilty plea slated in killing of 5-year-old

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