A 19-year-old Columbia man was sentenced to life in prison with all but 60 years suspended at Howard County Circuit Court on Friday for stabbing a 17 year old to death in July of 2011.
Xavier Trevon Bates pleaded guilty to the first-degree murder of Christian LenDell Massey-Hall, of Columbia, in September.
"Today's verdict gave me some closure," said Christine Massey, Hall's mother, in a statement, "but I am still so very devastated. Nothing ever will be the same again."
Massey was inside her Long Reach apartment when Bates charged in chasing her son, wielding a knife. She struggled to pull Bates off her son as he stabbed Hall at least 10 times in the chest, back and arms, eventually killing him, according to the statement of the facts in the case.
At the time of the stabbing, Hall and Bates were involved in a fight earlier in the day at Long Reach Village Center during which Hall suckerpunched Bates, according to court testiomny.
Hall's mother described the insecurity, pain and suffering she felt after her son was murdered.
"I'm not able to open my windows because of insecurities," said Massey. "I suffer from vomiting, sleepless nights and being withdrawn. This is a lifetime of pain."
In court on Friday, Bates was apologetic.
"I'm very, truly sorry this incident had to happen," said Bates. "I pray every night that I could take it back. I'm not a monster, I'm just a young man who made a life-changing mistake."
Bates' childhood was described in court as one in which his divorced mother and father constantly fought. Bates' lawyer read from a letter his father wrote to the judge that said he had failed his son.
"All my life his father and I have fought," said Sandra Randolph, Bates's mother, to the court. "As he grew older he had a hard time fitting in. He was always a loner."
At the time of the stabbing, Bates was homeless after being kicked out by his father.
Bates, who sat quietly in court wearing a blue jumpsuit, cried when he addressed the court. In the back of the courtroom, Bates' father cried as well.
During Bates' brief address to the court, he asked Massey for forgiveness.
"I must ask you that sometime in your lifetime I hope you can forgive me for what I've done," said Bates.
Howard County assistant state's attorney Natasha Byus described the murder as premeditated and brutal, with not only Massey attempting to pull Bates off, but also one of Hall's friends. She noted that Bates had told others two or three times he was going to kill Hall because of the fight earlier in the day.
"He was focused on what he was going to do," said Byus.
Judge Richard S. Bernhardt asked, during the sentencing, why young people turn to weapons to settle disputes. He said when he was a young man, two people with a disagreement would fight with their hands or fists and there would be a winner, but now there has to be blood.
"We can not accept that as a society," said Bernhardt.
Addressing Bates, Bernhardt said, "You not only devastated the Massey family, you devastated your own family and made them question themselves."
He said that Bates' upbringing played a significant role in what happened, but also pointed to the seven write-ups Bates received while in prison awaiting trial and his previous attempt to trick a psychologist into beliveing he was not mentally stable enough to stand trial.
"I don't see you as a monster," said Bernhardt, "but I don't see you as an immature 19-year-old either."
Ultimately, Bernhardt agreed with the prosecution's recommendation that Bates be sentenced to life in prison with all but 60 years suspended. Under that sentence, Bernhardt said Bates would be eligible for parole in 15 years, although he pointed out the average prisoner serves two-thirds of their sentence.
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