On the night of Feb. 13, 2010, Beverly Thomas was shot and killed by her boyfriend, Derrick Shannon.
Shannon, 30, and his attorney, Public Defender Tim Murphy, never disputed during a trial that began Monday that Thomas, 45, was shot once with a …
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Shannon, 30, and his attorney, Public Defender Tim Murphy, never disputed during a trial that began Monday that Thomas, 45, was shot once with a .32-caliber revolver in the bathroom of a double-wide mobile home at 8330 Black River Road, Shannon's home.
Murphy's defense was simple: It was an accident and there was no malicious intent.
On Wednesday afternoon at the Sumter County Courthouse, 12 jurors decided Shannon was not guilty of murder but was guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
Shannon said only seven words before he was sentenced.
"I just want to say I'm sorry," he said.
James then sentenced Shannon to the maximum allowable sentence of five years.
"Jesus Christ," someone from Thomas' family uttered.
Thomas' family did not take the verdict well, especially after 3rd Circuit Assistant Solicitor R. Kirk Griffin listed Shannon's prior criminal record to 3rd Circuit Court Judge George C. "Buck" James Jr.
Shannon's record, Griffin said, shows a 1998 petty larceny charge; a 2000 criminal domestic violence charge; in 2001, charges of second-degree burglary with violence and possession of a stolen vehicle; and in 2006, charges of driving without a license, failure to maintain proof of insurance and assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature.
Public records show Shannon pleaded guilty to all of those charges - information that by law was off limits to jurors.
"(This is) One area of the judicial system where there are faults," one juror, who wished to remain anonymous, said after sentencing. "There's a lot of stuff we should've known that we didn't know," he said.
The majority of the jurors had filed back into court and were sitting in the audience when Gary Thomas told James how his family felt about the verdict and the man who took his sister's life.
Thomas told James he had hoped things would've ended differently, but that he's a law-abiding citizen and he and his family will have to move on. Shannon, he said, is "evil and deceitful."
"Basically he's a parasite," and when he got tired of Beverly Thomas, he took her life away. "It's not right."
Gary Thomas - noting the 911 call during which Shannon is instructed on how to perform life-saving techniques by dispatchers - said it was all an act. Testimony showed it was unclear if he did perform CPR.
"Really, I despise what he did, but I have to believe in the justice system. It is what it is," he said, expressing the hope that he doesn't pick up a newspaper in 20 years and see that Shannon has committed a similar act. "You can't rehabilitate a person like that. He's a parasite who hooks up to the host, sucks 'em dry and just kills 'em ...
"All I'm gonna say is beware. There's a chance he could be back - this courtroom or another courtroom."
James told the court what Thomas said was "100 percent true" regarding Shannon's prior criminal record with a propensity toward violence, but under the law, the jury wasn't allowed to take that record into account.
James told the court a murder conviction holds a 30-year to life sentence while an involuntary manslaughter conviction carries a sentence of up to five years. That news brought an audible gasp from Thomas' family.
Murphy said the jury had spoken, his client accepts responsibility and asked James to consider that Shannon has been in jail since Feb. 13, 2010.
James noted he had to give Shannon credit for time served under the law.
Reach Joe Perry at (803) 774-1272.
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