A 23-year-old Nathalie man accused in the May 27, 2019 killing of 5-year-old Christian Sydnor has pleaded guilty to the crime.

Christian Sydnor had graduated from the South Boston Early Learning Center and was set to start kindergarten in the fall of that year, before his life was cut short that Memorial Day.

Kory Lenorad Lennon pleaded guilty to a second-degree murder charge along with a felony charge of child abuse with serious injury in Halifax County Circuit Court on Monday.

Judge Kimberley S. White found Lennon guilty of the charges on which he was indicted by a grand jury on Oct. 3, 2019.

The grand jury also indicted Christian Sydnor’s mother, 32-year-old Tonja Lashay Sydnor, on second-degree murder and felony child abuse charges. Sydnor is being held in Blue Ridge Regional Jail with no bond while awaiting her jury trial, which is set to begin April 19.

Lennon returned to Blue Ridge Regional Jail after entering his guilty plea, where he will await his sentencing. White ordered a pre-sentencing investigation to take place prior to Lennon’s return to court. Lennon faces a sentence of up to 40 years in jail, the maximum penalty for second-degree murder under Virginia law.

As Lennon awaits his sentencing, the two-year anniversary of the untimely death of the 5-year-old boy known by some as “butterbean” approaches. In early summer of 2019, family and friends honored the short life of Christian Sydnor with a release of balloons in his favorite color — red.

“We want to celebrate the life of Chris, a happy go lucky fellow who ran and played and always had a smile on his face,” said Tonkaneka Ferrell, Sydnor’s cousin, the day of the balloon release.

Fast forward to Monday’s plea hearing, when Tracy Q. Martin, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Halifax County, presented the facts of Sydnor’s accused murderer’s case on behalf of the prosecution to Judge White. She said 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.

“Christian Sydnor died after having been beaten by Mr. Lennon,” Martin told those gathered in the courtroom. “The scene of the crime was the child’s bedroom.”

At the time of Christian’s death, Martin related that Christian was living with his mother at a home at 2031 Old Cluster Springs Road where the crime occurred. Lennon was dating Tonja Sydnor and had been staying with her and her child at the home over the Memorial Day weekend. Lennon made a call to 911 on May 27, 2019, initially telling the dispatcher that he had “whooped” the child (Christian), and he was not breathing.

The commonwealth’s attorney presented the graphic evidence of what Christian endured in the final hours leading up to his death, as revealed in the medical examiner’s autopsy. Christian had numerous contusions on his head, cheek and beneath his eyes. He had a total of 51 contusions and abrasions all over his body. Many were linear, consistent with leather belts found at the scene of the crime, some were looped, consistent with the doubled-up edge of a belt, and many were U-shaped, consistent with the shape of the buckle on one of the belts.

Martin also described the scene of the crime as later revealed by evidence found in a search warrant conducted by members of the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office. The railing on the side of Christian’s bed was cracked in the middle. One belt was found draped over the bed railing and another was found with items belonging to Lennon. Smears of apparent blood were found on the walls of Christian’s bedroom.

At the time that Lennon called 911, Christian’s mother Tonja was not home. Lennon said Tonja had left the home to take out the trash and while she was gone, he went to check on Christian and found him with his eyes half-open and not breathing correctly, Martin told the court in her presentation of facts. Lennon said he realized he had gone too far, and that is when he called 911. Martin related that Lennon also wrote letters to Tonja Sydnor, saying he was sorry for the hurt he had caused.

Lennon’s defense attorney Charles Cosby noted that Lennon called both Christian’s mother and 911 when he noticed the child was not breathing and was en route to the hospital to seek medical assistance for the child when he was stopped by authorities. Crews met the vehicle in the Riverdale area and transported Christian to Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital where he was later pronounced dead.

When police interviewed Lennon, he first stated that the injuries Christian had sustained were a result of falling off his bicycle, Martin shared in her presentation of facts. Then Lennon claimed Tonja Sydnor had whipped the child and he knew nothing about the marks all over his body. He also described disciplining the child earlier in the day by making him do pushups and squats. Later, Lennon admitted to police to disciplining Christian with a belt earlier that day to “get his attention,” also admitting that he might have been too aggressive with the child.

In addition to finding Lennon guilty of felony homicide and felony child abuse with serious injury at Monday’s plea hearing, White found him guilty of transporting a firearm in violation of a previously issued protective order in an unrelated matter.

Miranda Baines is a staff writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at mbaines@gazettevirginian.com.

Miranda Baines is a staff writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at mbaines@gazettevirginian.com.