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Man gets life for father's slaying

Motive never emerged in trial

POSTED: August 25, 2012 9:15 p.m.
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Puckett

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A 28-year-old man was sentenced to life in prison Friday night after a jury convicted him for the 2008 shooting death of his father.

“You are a cold-blooded killer,” Forsyth County Superior Court Chief Judge Jeffrey S. Bagley told Kevin Puckett before handing down his sentence of life in prison plus 20 consecutive years.

“This is one of the most heinous crimes I’ve seen. You deserve to spend as much time in prison as I can give you. May God have mercy on you.”

Puckett was found guilty of one count each of murder, felony murder and family violence aggravated assault in the slaying of Luther Puckett, 59, more than four years ago.

Testimony in the trial began Monday and ran through Friday. The jury spent about two hours deliberating before finding Puckett guilty of shooting his father six times — twice in the face at close range — during a domestic-related incident at the family’s Castleberry Farm Drive home in northeastern Forsyth.

Puckett has 30 days to appeal the verdict.

When given a chance to speak prior to sentencing, he turned to his family and said only that he had no excuse for what had occurred in April 2008

“Apologies don’t really cut it right now,” he said. “He didn’t deserve what happened to him.”

In letters and statements read aloud in court, several family members asked why Puckett had killed his father — a question never answered during the trial.

“You have taken away something that can never be replaced,” according to a statement from his sister, Rhonda Allen.

Another sister, Tammy Newberry, told Puckett in her statement that he had taken the life of a man “who did nothing to you but give you life.”

Luther Puckett’s sister, Mary Jane Kinsey, spoke on behalf of herself and five other siblings by saying they “want to know why Kevin murdered his father and why he had to tear the family apart.”

She also asked Bagley to give her nephew the maximum sentence allowed.

Puckett’s mother Irene continued to fight for her son. She told Bagley her husband of more than four decades “loved me unconditionally,” but that she still loves her son.

“Please don’t take everything I have from me,” she asked. “I don’t have anything to live for now.”

According to testimony during the trial, Irene Puckett had left her son and husband at home to go shopping the night of the shooting.

Kevin Puckett’s son, now 7, was also there at the time.

The boy testified that he saw his father shoot his grandfather with a gun — something the child’s mother said has scarred him for life.

“Not only did [Kevin] murder his father,” Kristy Kronberg told Bagley, “my son is serving a life sentence … for the damage that was done. My son will suffer for the rest of his life because of this.”

During the trial, Kevin Puckett’s attorney, John Rife, contended that the bullets found on scene couldn’t be matched with his client’s gun.

He also pointed to a disturbed crime scene that could have contaminated evidence.

He said poor detective work in the case resulted in no fingerprints being taken from the weapon or from the doors or windows to rule out the possibility of a forced entry.

“The investigation was garbage,” Rife said during his closing statement.

He added that since his client was charged within two hours of the incident, law enforcement needed evidence to support the arrest so it didn’t appear deputies had locked up the wrong person.

“It’s hard to admit you’re wrong,” said Rife, adding the investigation was lacking because “it didn’t fit their theory.”

While there may have been too many law enforcement agents at the home during the investigation, Chief Assistant District Attorney Sandra Partridge said that didn’t change the evidence. Nor did it alter the testimony of Kevin Puckett’s son, who witnessed the incident.

“If it doesn’t change the facts, then it’s just noise,” Partridge said in her closing remarks.

During sentencing, Partridge asked for the maximum sentence due to the severity of the crime. “The last thing Luther Pucket saw in his lifetime was his own son taking his life.”

 

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