For the second time in five days a judge in Colquitt County has imposed multiple life sentences on a defendant in a 2004 quintuple murder case.
On Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Richard M. Cowart sentenced Jerry Johnny Thompson to serve concurrent life sentences, meaning they will run at the same time rather than one after another. Cowart had earlier sentenced Thompson to a single life sentence pending his testimony in the trial of co-defendant Alexander Woods III, 34, of Valdosta who was found guilty on all 15 counts in trial last week.
Thompson pleaded guilty in November 2011 to five counts of felony murder in the killings of Katrina Darlene Watts “Tina” Resendez, 29; her husband Jaime Cruze Resendez; their 3-year-old son Juan Carlos Resendez; Tina Resendez’s mother Betty Faye Watts; and the Resendezs’ housekeeper Liliana Alegria Aguilar who also was referred to as Rodriguez during the trial.
Thompson showed no emotion before or after the sentence was read shortly after 2 p.m. in the Colquitt County Jail courtroom. Neither he nor his attorney spoke on his behalf.
One family member spoke on behalf of the victims. Jerry Watts, who lost his wife Betty, daughter, grandson and son-in-law when they were all shot to death Nov. 8, 2004, at their Highway 37 East residence, asked for harsh punishment for Thompson.
Thompson testified at Woods’ trial that he armed Woods and Anthony Davis with protective vests, a pistol and rifle, and directed them to the family’s house. He said he sent those men there because he was instructed by Jaime Resendez’s marijuana supplier in Texas to have Resendez call him.
The weaponry sent with Woods and Davis, who was found dead less than two months after the killings with multiple gunshot wounds, indicated the intent was violence, Watts said.
“You had an opportunity to stop this,” he said, addressing Thompson. “All you had to do was pick up the phone and call the sheriff’s office.
“I hope that they punish you that you never get out of prison. In fact, I hope they bury you in prison.”
In contrast to Woods, at the end of a week-long trial in the case on Friday, Senior Superior Court Judge E. Tracy Moulton sentenced Woods to five consecutive sentences. That means those sentences are to be served back-to-back.
With Thompson also slated to spend more than 20 years in federal prison on drug charges, both men will spend most if not all of the rest of their lives in a cell.
“I would think the likelihood of the Board of Pardons and Paroles granting parole to someone who’s been convicted on five murders is extremely unlikely,” Assistant District Attorney Brian McDaniel said in a telephone interview following the Tuesday afternoon sentencing hearing.
The plea agreement with Thompson spared him a possible death sentence if convicted at trial and allowed for the possibility of not serving five consecutive sentences.
In return, Thompson not only agreed to testify, he agreed to forego the appeals process available to other inmates.
“In exchange for that he had to waive all his appeals and habeas corpus rights,” McDaniel said. “He can’t appeal the sentence. He can’t bring up a bunch of stuff later or he will be in violation of the sentence. He got a deal that got him concurrent sentences, but he gave up a lot of rights to appeal.”
The district attorney’s office plans to move quickly to tie up the one loose end in the nearly nine-year-old case, disposition of the case of Wilma Ann Yvonne Stover. Stover, now 26, was Thompson’s girlfriend at the time and testified in the trial that she was in the truck that day.
Stover’s testimony was valuable, McDaniel said, and no decision on final disposition has been reached.
“Obviously we will be addressing Ms. Stover’s case in coming weeks,” he said. “She did an unusual and wonderful thing of standing out and testifying without a deal.”