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Last updated on Tuesday, May 15, 2012
(BEDFORD) - Lawrence County Superior Court II was filled with members of murder victim Braden Wilson’s family and the family of his killer 24-year-old Brent Knapp.
Knapp pleaded 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 Raichal Miller.
He was sentenced today by Judge William Sleva to the maximum sentences of 8 years on both Class C felonies. Those sentenced will run consecutively, or one right after the other - for a total of 16 years, with no time suspended. He will serve his sentence at the Department of Corrections.
Knapp was given credit for 665 days served and fined $165 in court costs and $200 because the crime was committed with a gun.
"I have read Miss Wilson's letter she sent the court and there is nothing I can do here today to make her feel better," Sleva said. "Your letter is truly heartbreaking. I understand this is a nightmare you will never wake up from. I take that back. You can always wake up from a nightmare, but in this case you cannot wake up and it be gone."
Sleva told the court that he must follow the law, and cannot let personal feelings weigh his decision.
"That doesn't mean I have to like this or that it makes me happy," he added. "Do I believe a 16 years sentence is enough time for a life lost...200 years is not enough either. There is never enough time. His mother, girlfriends and family and friends will never be the same."
Lawrence County Chief Public Defender Lorinda Youngcourt and Lawrence County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Tim Sledd had reached the agreement and were in court Monday.
Lawrence County Prosecutor Michelle Woodward issued a statement why the state offered the plea agreement.
"After a careful evaluation of existing and applicable laws, we felt the plea and sentence agreed upon were the best resolution of this case to ensure (Knapp) was held accountable for his actions," she wrote. "Cases that go to trial can often produce disappointing results because juries are hard to predict."
Woodward says "The burden of proof the State must overcome in a criminal case is a heavy and sometimes difficult burden. In analyzing cases for charging and trail, we weigh our evidence against the burden of proof often and with great thought. The decisions are made without the influence by public, political, or personal pressures."
Woodward says Deputy Prosecutor Tim Sledd met with Wilson family members and explained why the plea agreement was offered.
"We understand the family members were obviously disappointed and not in agreement with this decision," she continued. "We recognize that this case has been very difficult for Braden Wilson's family and the other victim, Raichal Miller."
Prior to the 1 p.m. sentencing, Braden Wilson's mother, stepfather and about 20 other friends and family members stood on in front of Courthouse Plaza with signs protesting the plea agreement.
Braden's stepfather, Lance Adams, Raichal Miller, Braden's girlfriend at the time of the shooting and who was also shot by Knapp, and Braden's Mother, Missy Wilson addressed the court.
Miller testified she didn't think the sentence was appropriate.
"To me, it's simply what's right is right and what's wrong is wrong," she said. "With no disrespect to the judge, prosecutor and others who have dedicated so much time and effort to this case, we failed Braden."
Braden's stepfather Lance Adams testified Braden was a "smart, handsome man with a good heart who was willing to help anyone."
"The streets will be unsafe with you (Knapp) back on them," Adams said.
Missy Miller, Braden's mother was the last person to testify and the most powerful - bring tears to many in the courtroom.
"Look at me! You owe me that!" Wilson said. "Don't take your eyes off me!"
Wilson told Knapp and the court that she spent her Mother's Day sitting at Braden's grave in Mitchell writing her victim impact statement and crying.
"While you got to spend the day visiting with your mother," Wilson said. "You took my only child from me. I will never see him again. Never see him graduate culinary school. Never see him get married. Never have a grandchild....You pointed a gun at him while he slept and pulled the trigger.... My last memory of my son, will be him on that gurney with his face blown apart....stepping over his and Raichal's blood."
Braden's mother Missy Wilson said the killing was no accident and not reckless.
"Braden had his hand up in a defensive position to try and protect his face," Wilson said. "The gun had a 5.6 pound trigger pull there is no way that your story is the truth. You lied. That gun did not go off by accident. You didn't drop it, you pulled that trigger. You murdered him."
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.
He says he went in to talk to Wilson, 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.
"It slipped out of my left hand," he testified. "I tried to support the gun's weight with my right hand, and my finger slipped in the trigger well," Knapp testified earlier.
According to Knapp that caused the gun to fire.
Missy says that story was a lie and reaffirmed that today in court.
"How could he have been sitting on the bed when they found him lying on the bed with his hand over his face," Missy says.
Miller, Adams and Wilson says they put their trust in the system and it let them down.
"This was cold blooded murder plain and simple," Wilson said. "I just hope after he gets out another mother doesn't have to go through this. It will happen again... if he is let out of jail. With time served and good-time credit he will do six years...I will serve a life sentence."
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