A 23-year-old Nathalie man convicted in the May 27, 2019, killing of 5-year-old Christian Sydnor was sentenced to 50 years in prison Monday afternoon in Halifax County Circuit Court.
Judge Kimberley S. White sentenced Kory Lenorad Lennon to 40 years in prison for felony homicide, 10 years in prison for felony child abuse, and 12 months in prison for an unrelated firearms charge. White also ordered one year of post-release supervision.
Prior to imposing the maximum sentence on Lennon for his crimes, White said the court could not think of a felony child abuse or a felony homicide case involving a child that was any worse than Lennon’s case.
Commonwealth’s attorney Tracy Martin presented graphic evidence to the court of the toll Lennon’s two separate beatings of Christian took on the 5-year-old’s body.
She said the medical examiner’s report showed that Christian had 51 separate bruises and lacerations on his body.
The medical examiner’s office ruled that the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head, torso and extremities in a setting of forced exercise.
“How much did that child hurt in the last moments of his life?” Martin asked the court to ponder.
Before he was sentenced, Lennon apologized for his crimes that led to the death of Christian in the courtroom where the victim’s family as well as Lennon’s family members and friends including his father Jerry Lennon and former baseball coach John Chappell, both of whom testified on his behalf, were gathered.
“When committing the crime I did, I let my anger get the best of me,” Lennon said. “It has taken a toll on me, and I really regret everything that I’ve done…I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart.”
White told Lennon after hearing the evidence of the case that she saw a young man who had had a good upbringing and, looking around the courtroom, many friends who support him, but in spite of that, “Something went wrong out there.”
“The beating that Christian took at the hands of the defendant was unbelievably violent,” White said. “Christian was 3 feet, 7 inches tall, and Christian weighed 47 pounds. He’s a skinny little 5-year-old, and he was beaten by someone who is 240 pounds, and about 6 feet, 4 inches tall.”
At the time the crimes took place, Christian Sydnor was living with his mother, Tonja Lashar Sydnor, at a home at 2031 Old Cluster Springs Road. Lennon was dating Tonja Sydnor at the time, and had been staying with her and her son at the home over the Memorial Day weekend.
Sydnor is in jail awaiting sentencing for her role in her son’s death. On April 9, White found her guilty of manslaughter as well as felony child abuse with serious injury.
At Lennon’s sentencing, Martin played for the court part of a video recording of Halifax County Sheriff’s Office investigator Sam Edmonds’ interview of Lennon following his arrest for Sydnor’s death. In the interview, Lennon first denied leaving the bruises and other marks on Sydnor’s body.
Lennon is shown in the video recording claiming Christian already had the bruises on his buttocks when he gave him a “simple whipping” Sunday evening (May 26, 2019) and that Christian’s mother Tonja whipped him Monday evening.
He admitted in the recording of the video that he also made Christian do squats and pushups after whipping him Sunday evening.
But later in the interview, Lennon admitted his guilt in the crimes, Edmonds testified on the witness stand.
“Did he indicate that his statement earlier about his (Christian’s) mother whipping the child earlier in the weekend was a lie,” Martin asked.
“Yes,” Edmonds replied.
Martin presented sealed photographic evidence to the court of the injuries Christian sustained from the beatings as well as the scene of the crime — the child’s bedroom — which depicted the belt used in the beatings and smears of blood on the walls.
“Your honor, this child was tortured,” Martin told White.
Christian’s grandmother Rosetta Dotson wept as Martin described the injuries that Christian sustained to the court. When she took the witness stand, wearing a T-shirt with the phrase “Never Forgotten” and a picture of Christian screen-printed on the front, she asked the court to be an advocate for her grandson and impose the maximum sentence on Lennon for his crimes.
“Although Chris was not given an opportunity to grow up and be a man and leave his mark on the world, he will always be loved and never forgotten,” Dotson said.
She painted a picture for the court of her 5-year-old grandson whose life was cut short: a child who was always happy, was a big eater, loved to dance, loved sports, and as she said, “just wanted to live.”
“He was a happy child, he loved laughter,” Dotson shared. “Chris had an infectious smile that would light up anyone’s world.”
While Dotson and Commonwealth’s Attorney Martin advocated for the maximum sentence for Lennon, his defense attorney Charles Cosby asked the court to consider the lower end of the sentencing guidelines, which would give Lennon “a light at the end of the tunnel” of his incarceration.
In his defense of Lennon, Cosby painted his client as a young man who suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of witnessing his brother Jerry Devon Lennon’s death in a car accident where he was a passenger at the age of 14.
Lennon’s father Jerry Lennon took the witness stand and testified that his son was “a very outgoing kid” when he was younger and that after his brother’s accident, his disposition changed and he “kept to himself.”
But he said he still could not imagine his son committing a crime against a child such as the one he had been found guilty of committing.
“I can’t see him doing anything to a kid like that,” Jerry Lennon said. “It’s a hard thing to swallow…I just don’t understand.”
White concluded, however, that Lennon’s case didn’t “scream to the court as a PTSD incident” because the beating of Christian happened on two separate days and was “methodical.”
Cosby also told the court in his closing argument that to Lennon’s credit, he called 911 when he realized he had “gone too far” in punishing Christian, and he was taking the child to the hospital when he was met by emergency responders along the way.