(BEDFORD) - More than 60 family members and friends of murder victim Braden Wilson lined the street in front of the courthouse and Lawrence Superior Court II this morning in protest of a plea agreement offered to the man that allegedly killed Wilson and shot his then 6-month pregnant girlfriend.
A bed was placed on the courthouse lawn with two mannequins laying on the bed and one standing holding the gun reenacting the murder scene. Protestors wore t-shirts with Braden's picture on it. Posters lined the area with pictures of Braden's tombstone and his coffin being carried by his best friends.
"We are in a lot of pain," said Kathleen Nelson, Braden's grandmother. "This is our last hope. Braden deserves justice and this plea agreement is not justice. Braden had a lot of promise and ambitions I have prayed every night that God will hear our pleas and the Lord will grant us justice. If not in this courtroom today, than in the hereafter."
24-year-old Brent Knapp appeared in court, dressed in a stripped jail uniform and wearing glasses.
After Judge William Sleva advised Knapp of his rights. Knapp admitted to the killing of Wilson and that the bullet that killed Wilson also injured Wilson's girlfriend Raichal Miller, of Mitchell.
Braden's mother Missy Wilson says the killing was no accident.
"Braden had his hand up in a defensive position to try and protect his face," Wilson says. "The gun had a 5.6 pound trigger pull there is no way that Knapp's story jives. That gun did not go off by accident like he says. You had to put some force on that trigger to fire the gun."
Eddie McLain, who organized the protest says even the Bedford Police detectives were not happy with the plea agreement.
"The detectives were appalled that he was offered a deal. The goal of this march is to show Judge Sleva the plea agreement is not acceptable and it is a travesty to justice," McLain says. "How can 16 years be given to someone, who claims he was high on Adderal, - which is an excuse - be a stiff penalty for killing someone why they slept and then that same bullet hits his 6-month pregnant girlfriend. We are lucky she and the baby didn't die. With the time he has all ready served, he will be out in six years or less. That is unacceptable."
The shot that killed Wilson, according to a probable cause affidavit, also hit Raichal Miller, of Mitchell.
An autopsy report found the bullet traveled through Wilson's fifth finger on his right hand, which was near his face, then entered his head through his right temple and then exited his left cheek and then entered Miller's shoulder. The couple was sleeping when Knapp allegedly went into the bedroom and fired the fatal shot.
Besides snorting Adderal, Knapp admitted he drank a fifth of Vodka and had smoked marijuana, before shooting Wilson in the morning hours of July 19, 2010.
While admitting to the crime, Knapp told the court he had been cleaning the house and had just taken the trash out when he came back in and saw Braden sitting on the side of the bed.
The says he went in to talk to him and found the gun and was looking through the sights when the gun slipped out of his hand and as he attempted to catch the gun his finger slipped on the trigger and the gun went off.
"He (Wilson) just got it a couple of days before that," Knapp testified. "It was a cool gun."
While he was handling it, he said, "it slipped out of my left hand." He tried to support the gun's weight with his right hand, and "my finger slipped in the trigger well," causing the gun to fire.
"How could he have been sitting on the bed when they found him laying on the bed with his hand over his face," Missy says.
Chief Public Defender Lorinda Youngcourt, who is representing Knapp, asked Knapp if he intended to kill Wilson or injury Miller. Knapp replied "No."
Knapp showed no emotion while being questioned about the night of the shooting.
Knapp, Wilson and Miller all worked at Papa's and had known each other for about 5 months.
"He was my best friend," Knapp told the court.
After Knapp testified, Judge William Sleva accepted the plea agreement. Knapp will be sentence on May 14th at 1 p.m.
Knapp pled guilty to one count of reckless homicide in the murder of Wilson and one count of criminal recklessness with a deadly weapon in the shooting of Miller. He will receive the maximum sentence of 8 years on both Class C felonies. Those sentenced will run concurrently, or one right after the other.
The Wilson family was stunned.
"I put my trust in the system and the system let me down and let Braden and Raichal down," said Missy Wilson. "I will fight this to the highest court. This was cold blooded murder plain and simple."
Braden's grandmother agreed.
"I hope when election time comes around people of this county will stand for justice and not re-elect those that participated in this travesty," Kathleen Nelson said. "I just don't understand this. That was a defensive wound on his hand, how can they say he didn't intend to kill my grandson."
Missy says Knapp has a history of criminal behavior.
"He completed a violent offenders course on April 26, 2010 and he was arrested again on June 16, 2010 after stabbing Joseph DeVinney," Missy said. "There will be another mother standing in my place one day."
Missy says her family had not received any letter of apology from Knapp and that Knapp has shown no remorse for what he did to Braden or Raichal.
Chief Public Defender Lorinda Youngcourt, who is representing Knapp, says in order to get a conviction for murder, the state would have to prove that Knapp killed Wilson intentionally or he did it knowingly. She says there's absolutely no evidence of that.
Youngcourt has been attempting to secure a plea agreement for some time. That deal was reached on April 3rd.
Youngcourt says her heart goes out to Braden's family, but this isn't a murder case and never has been.
"I did death penalty work for 24 years and I know what a murder case looks like and this is not one," said Youngcourt.
"My son was amazing. And Brent Knapp has robbed me of him. Braden was 20 years old. He was a chef. He was getting ready to go to culinary school and planning on opening his own restaurant," Wilson said. "I was not given a chance to speak and we were robbed of not only Braden, but justice. I will not rest until justice is served."
Have a question or comment about a news story? Send it to email@example.com