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Man guilty of killing Snellville woman, given life plus 20

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Damion Barton avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty to murdering and torturing a Snellville woman he once affectionately called his "aunt."

Barton, 33, of Conyers pleaded guilty in Gwinnett County Superior Court Tuesday to charges of murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. He was sentenced to life plus 20 years, Senior Assistant District Attorney John A. Warr said.

On Sept. 18, 2010, Barton is believed to have bound and tortured Eva May Francis, 61, inside the same Snellville home he had once lived. An autopsy showed Francis had been shot in the mouth, chest, abdomen, knees and thighs.

Francis -- who owned cleaning and lingerie businesses with her husband in DeKalb County, Miami and Canada -- was found with her hands bound with a phone cord and her mouth covered with tape. Her husband, Erroll, had been out of town.

According to testimony in prior hearings, Barton had lived at the home on Garnet Way until Memorial Day in 2010, when he was kicked out for driving a vehicle without permission.

He avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty this week.

Warr said a total of 20 years worth of consecutive sentences doled out from aggravated assault and weapons charges will keep Barton in prison for a long time, even if there's a chance of parole somewhere down the road

"He will be eligible for parole on the murder, but the current guidelines are about 30 years before being considered for parole on a life sentence," Warr said. "The consecutive sentences will further extend any potential parole date."