A Wisconsin jury found a 76-year-old Milwaukee man guilty of first-degree intentional homicide last week, and yesterday he was sentenced to life in prison. Prior to his conviction, John Henry Spooner told the court that he killed his 13-year-old neighbor, Darius Simmons, because he thought that the teen had stolen his shotguns.
In May 2012, Spooner’s home was burglarized and he believed Simmons was the culprit. Spooner confronted the boy and demanded that he return the guns. After the teen denied that he had stolen anything, Spooner shot him in the chest in front of his mother. Spooner's own surveillance cameras captured the grisly shooting.
Although Spooner’s intentional homicide charge carries a mandatory life sentence, the judge could have allowed for the possibility of parole after 20 years. However, citing Spooner's lack of remorse and desire to also kill the teen's brother, the judge decided against that option, Fox News reported.
Spooner explained to the court that he felt he had to take the law into his own hands.
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"They had to rob the house," he said. "Why'd they do that to me? ... They pushed me over the edge, I guess. I don't know. As far as being sorry, I don't know if I did right or wrong."
Judge Jeffrey Wagner answered him: "I can tell you, you did wrong. You took the life of a child."
Spooner's defense attorney, Franklyn Gimbel, never disputed that Spooner shot Simmons. He instead tried to argue that his client did not mean for the shooting to result in Simmons’ death.
"This is not a case of whodunit," Gimbel said. "It's not a question of whether the behaviors of John Spooner caused the death of the young man – but what motivated it and what went on in his mind at the time is the crucial question."
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Simmons’ mother, Patricia Larry, has a wrongful-death lawsuit pending against Spooner.