LAWRENCEVILLE - A Snellville teen convicted of gunning down a Jonesboro man in a McDonald's parking lot was sentenced to life in prison plus five years Wednesday.
A Gwinnett Superior Court jury last Friday, after a four-day trial, found Sabon Allen Julius, 19, guilty of murder and related charges. He shot 20-year-old Adler "Jerry" Benoit once in the back of his head, killing him in the driver's seat of his Ford Taurus at a Snellville McDonald's on Sept. 7, 2006.
Several men testified who were present at the murder scene, but they never implicated a gunman in Benoit's death. Investigators never found the .380 caliber gun used to kill Benoit.
Judge Timothy Hamil said the case relied on circumstantial evidence, which both sides understood coming in.
"I think it was a clean trial," Hamil said. "I think we pretty much got in to everything."
Neither side presented a clear motive for Benoit's murder. Witnesses only said Julius and the victim argued about going to College Park prior to the shooting.
Bound by shackles and wearing a green jumpsuit, Julius nodded to his great uncle and cousin as he entered the courtroom. His immediate family members live in the northeast and were unable to attend.
"Here's a case where a young person is said to have shot someone," said Julius' great uncle, a New Jersey man who declined to offer his name to reporters. "No weapon was found. You want to be sure what someone did or did not do."
Gabriel Benoit, the victim's uncle, said his nephew planned to attend Clayton State College to study business management and music production. Benoit, who played keyboard, had posted R&B music clips he created online, which his younger family members still visit, said Gabriel Benoit.
"My nephew had big plans for his life," he said. "My children have not stopped crying, each and every time Jerry's name comes up."
Four months after the murder, Benoit's 52-year-old father died, unable to cope with the grief of losing his only son, the victim's uncle said.
Julius was convicted on all five charges he faced, including murder, felony murder and aggravated assault. Two additional counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime earned him a consecutive fire years at the end of his life sentence.
Julius' attorney, Mike McDaniel, plans to file a motion for a retrial by the end of this week, he said.