Co-worker pleads guilty to ‘brutal, senseless’ murder of beloved butcher at Birmingham meat market

By Carol Robinson 

Christopher Kendricks(Jefferson County Jail)

A 33-year-old man pleaded guilty today to the murder of his co-worker at the Elyton Meat Market earlier this year.

Christopher Kendricks entered a blind plea to intentional murder Monday morning before Jefferson County Circuit Judge Kandice Pickett. A blind plea means the length of a prison sentence was not part of the agreement and Kendricks does not yet know what that sentence will be.

Kendricks fatally shot 37-year-old Cortez Ware, a longtime butcher who was remembered as always going the extra mile for others.

The shooting happened at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, at the business on Center Street North and Third Avenue North. Ware collapsed on the sidewalk just outside the front door where he was pronounced dead at 2:16 p.m.

Police marked at least 10 shell casings near Ware’s body.

Cortez Ware
Cortez Ware, a 37-year-old father, was shot to death Jan. 4, 2023, at Elyton Meat Market where he was a beloved butcher.

Ware was a longtime employee, and Kendricks had only recently started working there.

Ware was working Wednesday, but his family said they understand Kendricks was off that day. The two were involved in a dispute the previous day.

Community members and information obtained through the department’s Real Time Crime Center quickly led police to the suspect. He was taken into custody at nearby Elyton Village public housing community.

Kendricks has been held in the Jefferson County Jail on $1.5 million bond since his January arrest.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Joe Roberts and Deputy District Ty Henderson are prosecuting the case. Kendricks was represented by attorneys Sammie Shaw and Catelyn Swindall of the Jefferson County Public Defender’s Office.

A shooting happened outside the Elyton Meat Market on Center Street North and Third Avenue North on Jan. 4, 2023. (Carol Robinson)

Sentencing for Kendricks is set for Feb. 20, 2024.

“This was a brutal, senseless murder committed by the defendant in broad daylight right in front of The Elyton Meat Market where both Cortez Ware and the defendant worked,’’ Roberts said. “While the defendant admitted his guilt today that does not absolve him from responsibility or even entitle him to a break in regard to his sentence.”

Roberts said prosecutors will be asking that Kendricks receive a life sentence.

Ware was a longtime butcher, first at Angel Foods Meat Market in north Birmingham and in recent years at Elyton Meat Market. Those mourning his death said he was popular with customers who requested he be the one to cut their meat. He was also known for carrying customer’s groceries to their car for them.

Ware was a father and in a long-term relationship. He was well-loved, his family said, and always smiling.