Stephanie Patrick cupped her hands over her 9 year old nephew's ears as details of the murder of the boy's father were read aloud in court in Newton Wednesday.
The presentation by the state was part of the plea deal process that two defendants in the case agreed to. Consandra Tyree and Emily Starnes both pled guilty to Obstruction of justice, Conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon, Robbery with a dangerous weapon, and accessory after the fact of murder. They were charged in connection with the stabbing death of Adam Williams in August of 2011.
Williams was lured to the closed Fuddrucker's Restaurant parking lot on the assumption he was to pick up a fare. Instead he was attacked and murdered. Starnes and Tyree claim they were only in the getaway car and had nothing to do with the murder. They blame Camyron Johnson and Matthew Hopkins for the killing.
Prosecutors claim the two knew that a robbery was going to take place and said Wednesday they believed the motive was to get money to buy materials to make methamphetamine. In interviews with police just days after the murder, the teens told investigators that after arriving at the place where they were meeting the taxi, they stayed in the vehicle in a hidden spot and men went to the other side of the building that night to meet the cab and returned covered in blood.
As part of the plea deal, murder charges against the two were dropped but they had to agree to testify in any future trials against the other defendants if asked to. They were sentenced to a minimum of 58 months in prison with a maximum of 79 months. With credit for time served, both girls could be eligible for release in about four years. "I don't like it at all," said Stephanie Patrick after court was recessed. "They should have to spend the rest of their life in jail."
The defense, despite the pleas, argued that the girls played only a "passive role" in the killings and should be given the minimum sentence of 44 months. "They didn't know what was going to happen at the time and cooperated with police," said Scott Reilly, attorney for Starnes. Shell Pierce, attorney for Tyree also argued that the age of the defendants should be taken into account. "Both of the girls were barely 16 at the time," he told the judge.
Both defendants cried as family members of Williams spoke to the court about how the killing has impacted them.
"There are two children who won't know their father," said Patrick. Starnes had her attorney read a letter of apology to the victim's family but they just shook their heads and covered their ears as it was read.
"I don't accept the apology," said Stephanie.
The victim's mother, Bridgett Patrick said she feels bad for the two teens and hopes they will get their lives on a better track when they get out of prison. "But I still won't have my son," she said. The good thing about the plea deal, they said, is that testimony from the teens will give prosecutors more ammunition in their cases against the other defendants.
The other defendants in the case, Camyron Johnson and Matthew Hopkins are not expected to go to trial until next August. Both could face the death penalty if convicted.