METROPOLIS - Former Meridian High School basketball standout Judah Watkins, 18, of Massac County, will spend the next 50 years in prison.
Watkins has been convicted for his role as the trigger-man in the shooting death of Andrea Perdew, a 22-year-old Metropolis woman.
Watkins was second team all-conference in the South Egyptian Conference in 2004
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(2003-04 season). Meridian finished second to Century in that race that year.
Watkins, Sharod Roundtree, 25, and Joel Nelson, 24, were convicted of Perdew's murder earlier this year. The murder was committed during an armed robbery of the residence Perdew shared with Wesley Edwards on Mann Lake Road.
Recently elected Massac County State's Attorney Patrick Windhorst said he was pleased with the convictions and the sentences handed down in the courtroom. He said he found them appropriate for the level of responsibility indicated by court testimony.
Watkins was convicted by jury trial. The jury also found that Watkins was the one who pulled the trigger on the gun that killed Perdew. Perdew was shot three times.
Watkins was sentenced to 25 years for her murder. The crime has a mandatory 25-year enhancement because the jury found him guilty of the actual murder, Windhorst said.
In addition to the murder sentence, Watkins was sentenced to 15 years for home invasion, 15 years for aggravated battery with a firearm and 15 years for armed robbery. The three 15-year sentences are to be served concurrently with the murder sentence.
Windhorst said that through truth in sentencing, Watkins will be required to serve 100 percent of his sentence with no possibility of early release.
Watkins received no sentence for the residential burglary, though the jury found him guilty of that offense as well, Windhorst said.
Roundtree, who was a football standout at Meridian High School during his time as a student, was sentenced to 27 years in prison for Perdew's murder. He entered an open plea that saw other charges against him dropped, though there were no negotiations for sentencing with his plea. Like Watkins, he must serve his complete sentence without early release.
Roundtree pleaded guilty to first degree murder in January. He testified at Watkins' and Nelson's trials, Windhorst said. Roundtree's testimony included assertions that Watkins was the trigger-man.
Roundtree told the jury he heard three shots fired during the robbery, then walked into the bedroom. He said Watkins ordered him, "Kill them." Instead, Roundtree testified, he shot Edwards in the leg, Windhorst said in an earlier interview.
Windhorst said Sharon Voisine, Perdew's mother, and Edwards delivered emotional victim impact statements at the hearing. He said about 25 of Perdew's friends and family attended the hearing.
"It shows how close they were to her that they came through the trial and all the way to the sentencing," Windhorst said.
Both Watkins and Roundtree spoke at the hearing and expressed remorse for Perdew's death, Windhorst said.
Carbondale attorney Timothy Capps, defense for Roundtree, said the sentence was not unexpected for his client. He said Roundtree was in tears as Voisine spoke about the loss of her daughter, but was more stoical as his sentence was read.
"The only thing I've heard from the community is 'How could this happen?'" Capps said.
Capps said his client told him drugs and alcohol played a role early that evening while the three men discussed the possibility of committing a burglary. As the night wore on, the three settled on attempting to burglarize Edwards, who was an acquaintance.
"As it turns out, it wasn't a burglary," he said. "They said (in their confessions) that they were looking for drugs or money - for whatever reason they thought they would be able to get those things there. Unfortunately, Judah Watkins started shooting right away (when he realized someone was home)."
Nelson's sentencing was continued because his attorney, McArthur Allen, is defense council for the murder trial of Emmit Lane Jr. in Pulaski County, which was under way on Monday.
Nelson was convicted of similar charges to the other two men, including the murder, but his sentence does not carry an enhancement. Court testimony indicated that Nelson was not actually present in the trailer.
Windhorst said testimony indicated that Nelson planned the break-in and provided the guns and the vehicle. The jury at his trial found that his role as an accomplice made him guilty of the murder even though he wasn't present.
The murder trials were the first major trials for Windhorst as Massac County state's attorney. Windhorst was elected state's attorney in November 2004.