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Gang Member Sentenced In Killing Of 'Beloved' Plainfield Man

Willie Lee Major, 37
Willie Lee Major, 37 Photo Credit: Judkins Colonial Home

A 26-year-old Plainfield man who killed a bystander when he opened fire on a crowd of neighbors outside enjoying a pleasant spring night three years ago has been sentenced to 48 years in prison, the Union County Prosecutor's Office said.

Shaquille Spruiel killed Willie Lee Major, 37, at the Liberty Village housing complex May 25, 2016. Major had not been specifically targeted by Spruiel, authorities said.

An investigation revealed the shooting was the latest incident in an ongoing feud between rival street gangs in Plainfield's West End. The shooting was in retaliation for a still-unsolved killing that occurred weeks earlier, prosecutors said.

An investigation led by the Union County Homicide Task Force and Sgt. Danika Ramos, assisted by the Plainfield Police Division, Union County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit, and Union County Police Department Ballistics Unit, resulted in Spruiel and a second defendant, 21-year-old Diniek Forbes, being identified as suspects, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutors Colleen Ruppert and Michael D’Agostino, who prosecuted the case.

Forbes was arrested in June 2016 and later pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter. Spruiel, who was seen on video firing the shot that killed Major, was convicted in June of murder, conspiracy and weapons offenses.

During sentencing Friday, Ruppert said Major was well-liked by his neighbors, a fact apparent to investigators who interviewed them for leads in his killing. Neighbors  provided "overwhelming" cooperation, she said.

“Willie Lee Major was a fixture in his community,” she said. “He was beloved.”

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