• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Saunders gets 15 years for causing brother's death

Circuit Judge Paul Isaacs sentenced a 59-year-old Woodford County man to 15 years in prison for causing his brother's death. A Woodford County jury recommended that Vernon Saunders serve 10 years in prison for second-degree manslaughter (a class C felony) and five years in prison for tampering with physical evidence (a class D felony) after a four-day jury trial that ended on Oct. 27. Noting that this was Saunders's first felony conviction at final sentencing on Dec. 7, public defender Nathan Goodrich asked Judge Isaacs to run his client's 10- and five-year prison sentences concurrently (at the same time). In response, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Pat Molloy expressed his surprise that second-degree manslaughter is classified as a nonviolent offense. "The victim of this offense was shot between five and six times . and (then Saunders) dragged him down the road for a mile and a half (using a pickup truck). It's just hard to equate this with being a nonviolent offense," Molloy said. In voicing the commonwealth's opposition to running the prison sentences concurrently, Molloy told Judge Isaacs that he observed an expression of surprise on the faces of jurors when they learned that Saunders would be eligible for parole after serving only three years in prison - making him eligible for parole seven months after his jury trial (because of credit for time already served awaiting his trial). In their closing arguments, public defender Scott Getsinger asked the jury to find Saunders guilty of reckless homicide while Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Keith Eardley argued that Saunders was guilty of murder for intentionally killing his 51-year-old brother, Timothy Saunders, during the early-morning hours of May 4, 2014. "When you point a gun at somebody," said Eardley, "and you pull that trigger not once, not twice, not three times . You shoot that person in the chest, and you shoot that person when they're on the floor ... That's intent. And that's intent to murder." ".this was not a case of intentional murder," countered Getsinger. ".we believe it's a case of reckless homicide." He argued that both Vernon Saunders and his younger brother were both "quite intoxicated" during the hours before Timothy Saunders was shot to death. And because of his high level of alcohol intoxication, Vernon Saunders didn't know who it was he had shot until after he shot him," Getsinger said. In the end, the jury found Saunders guilty of second-degree manslaughter - not murder or a lesser charge of reckless homicide.

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