Just as he predicted upon shooting 13-year-old Darius Simmons last year, a judge has “thrown the book” at John Henry Spooner.
The 76-year-old gunned down his neighbor’s son believing the youngster stole from his arsenal of more than a dozen firearms.
In court Monday (July 22) Spooner was sentenced to life in prison, garnished with a scolding from the judge. “There should never be any light in the tunnel for you,” Judge Jeffrey Wagner said in court. “This is one of the worst of the worst.”
Although Spooner is White and Simmons was Black, skin color was never brought up during the trial. Timing of the court proceedings broke just after news George Zimmerman’s acquittal for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, playing on the racial similarities. However, on the stand Monday Spooner made clear that he was motivated by the allegedly stolen gun collection, not race. “I feel sorry for Darius,” he said still believing the teen was guilty. “He had nobody who loved him enough to teach him to go straight.”
Spooner accused Simmons’ mother, Patricia Larry, of orchestrating the burglary that never happened. “May God forgive you, Ms. Larry, for lying and cheating and stealing,” he added. “I don’t know if I did right or wrong. The jury didn’t tell me. Nobody told me.”
Larry saw Spooner shoot her son while she was on the porch. Surveillance footage from the senior citizen’s house also captured the shooting. At sentencing Larry said she had “no hate for this man,” but called him a “menace to society.”
While Spooner claimed to be unsure that he’d done wrong, Wagner offered clarification. “You did wrong. You took the life of a child. It was an evil act. That family is left without the love of their child. [Simmons] will never be able to experience childhood, to go through high school…to go to college, to get married, to have children. You took that all away from him.”
The judge rejected the option to allow Spooner parole after 20 years. “He’s going to die in prison with murders and rapists, and that’s the choice he made,” said Assistant District Attorney Mark Williams.
A weeklong trial focussed on Spooner’s guilt and the theory of mental disability. His lawyer argued that he was not of sound mind in attempts to get a lesser charge.
Spooner was found guilty of intentional homicide. He must also pay Simmons’ family $58,551 in restitution.