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Sea, Hendrix get life without parole for murder of Morice Shiggs
Gavel

Immanuel Marquavis Hendrix of Millen and Anthony James Sea Jr. of Statesboro took turns on the witness stand under oath Wednesday and spoke words of apology and regret to the family of Morice Devone Shiggs, of Sylvania, for their roles in his death nearly two years ago at age 19.

But at the end of their sentencing hearing at the Bulloch County Judicial Annex, Superior Court Judge F. Gates Peed had Hendrix and Sea stand up together when he pronounced their shared fate: life without the possibility of parole for felony murder, plus five years “consecutive” for possession of a firearm in commission of a felony.

Shiggs died around 7:30 p.m. Nov. 27, 2020 of a gunshot to his chest after what has been described in court as a “shootout” in a parking lot at the 111 South apartment complex on Statesboro’s Rucker Lane.

Police catalogued 14 fresh, spent cartridge casings from two handguns. The exchange of gunfire between Hendrix and Shiggs resulted from a search for Shiggs and his cousin that Sea initiated because he believed Shiggs had paid for some marijuana with counterfeit money, according to testimony and statements presented during the Sept. 20-21 jury trial.

The jury that found Hendrix, now 24, and Sea, 29, guilty of felony murder and the firearms charge also convicted them of aggravated assault. But the “felony” murder conviction meant that they caused Shiggs’ death by committing another felony. So aggravated assault, as the underlying felony, merged into the murder conviction instead of carrying a separate sentence.

Under Georgia law, the judge’s only sentencing options for the murder conviction were life in prison without the possibility of parole or a life sentence with parole eventually possible. On the firearm charge, a sentence of one to five years was possible, in prison or on probation.

But Assistant District Attorney Russell Jones, on behalf of the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office, asked for the maximum, and that is what the judge imposed.

“We have failure to accept responsibility here. We have participation in a gang,” Jones said.

Hendrix had taken the handgun provided by Sea and cornered Shiggs and shot and killed him, but Hendrix “would not have been present to be a shooter if Anthony Sea had not called him and the remaining … co-defendants in, if Anthony Sea had not put his own gun in Immanuel Hendrix’s hands,” Jones argued.

 

Others acquitted

The jury in the recent trial found two other men, Ladarian Talik Golfin, of Millen, and Cecil Darryl Kelly, of Garfield, not guilty of all of the same charges. During that trial, as also during a previous trial attempt in June that resulted in a deadlocked jury and mistrial, the four men were tried simultaneously but represented by four different defense attorneys.

With Golfin and Kelly released, only Sea and Hendrix appeared at this week’s sentencing hearing. They wore broad-striped gray inmate uniforms and shackles.

Hendrix’s attorney, Richard Bailey, and Sea’s attorney, John Carson, sought the minimum sentence for their clients, life in prison with the possibility of parole, plus one year probation. Under current Georgia law, a life sentence for a recent murder, even with parole possible, amounts to a 30-year prison stay before the Board of Pardons and Paroles can consider a parole request.

Bailey alluded to that in speaking for Hendrix.

“I would just like to remind the court that he’s a very young man, that life with parole is really, in a way, a life-ender, and a long time to think about a decision that was made in a couple of moments,” Bailey said.

Hendrix’s best friend, mother, stepfather and one of his cousins took turns on the witness stand to ask for leniency or mercy. Then Hendrix was sworn in to speak for himself.

 

Defendants apologize

“First off, I just want to say to the victim’s family, I truly, from the bottom of my heart, I really apologize,” Hendrix said. “I’m sorry that it happened this way. I didn’t intend for nothing to happen like this. I took a life from a mother, from a grandmother, from an auntie, from a father and from cousins.”

Sea’s mother, an aunt and his grandfather were also sworn in and spoke for leniency on his behalf. They noted that he previously served in the military and has three very young daughters.

Then Carson called his client to the stand.

“Sometimes it takes bad things to happen to us for God to get our attention. … I strayed away,” Sea said. “I started having kids and I felt like I couldn’t provide for them. I felt like I couldn’t be the man that they needed, and I made some bad decisions. But Lord knows that I’m so sorry for what happened.”

Before the witnesses for the convicted men spoke, Jones had introduced Shiggs’ mother, grandmother and an aunt of his as witnesses who spoke of their loss and backed the state’s request for the maximum sentence.

 

Judge’s assessment

But the testimony that followed from the friend and family members of Hendrix and Sea included statements that the one “would never intentionally hurt anyone” and that the other “wouldn’t hurt a soul.”

Peed, chief judge in the Ogeechee Circuit, noted that he has been a Superior Court judge for 22 years.

“I’ve probably tried over 50 murder cases and most of them have been over something foolish, like a $20 counterfeit bill, like a piece of chicken, like ‘you drew the name that I wanted for Christmas,’” he said. “What it boils down to is selfishness.”

Then Peed said that some of the testimony he heard Wednesday “defies explanation and is anything but consistent with the truth. The defendants, please stand. …”

Hendrix’s and Sea’s attorneys said that motions for new trials and for appeals of the convictions will be filed on their behalf.

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