A North Carolina man has been sentenced to more than a dozen years of imprisonment for killing a man who tried to help him out during a snowstorm. The man opened fire on a group of good Samaritans trying to help him after his car got stuck in the snow.
Marvin Jacob Lee, 29, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and two counts of discharging a weapon into an occupied vehicle. According to a news release from the district attorney, Lee was sentenced to between 14 and 19 years of imprisonment.
The defendant's lawyer, Victoria Jayne, said he will be credited for the two years he spent in jail awaiting trial.
According to investigators, the group of would-be helpers believed that Lee was heavily intoxicated, so they tried to help him by taking away his car keys and calling authorities, which caused Lee to become belligerent.
Jefferson Heavner, who was one of the helpers, died after being shot multiple times when he and some others came to help Lee after they found him in his stalled car alongside a road in the Catawba County in January 2016, according to the district attorney's news release.
Although no one else was hurt in the shooting, the prosecutor’s news release said Lee had also fired into the vehicles of some other passersby who had stopped by to help.
Lee was reportedly passed out in the car when the sheriff’s tactical team arrived to arrest him following the fatal shooting.
In a phone interview the day after the guilty plea, Jayne said her client had been drinking and taking painkillers before he opened fire on the people trying to help him, and that he still doesn’t remember it.
She also went on to say she believes someone else had been driving the car and had left her client asleep in the car. She said that person had left the keys in the car.
She says that when someone reached into the car to take the keys from the ignition, her client became startled and felt as if he was in grave danger and so he pulled out his gun.
"That's what startled Marvin, and in that unconscious state of mind, he came out of the car and started firing," she said. "He has great remorse, but he doesn't have any memory of doing that.”
During the court proceedings in the Catawba County courtroom, Heavner’s mother, Lena Eidson addressed Lee, as did several other of his family members.
"My boy is gone, and I can't bring him back," said Eidson. "There's nothing done here today that can change that."
Jessica Heavner, the victim’s sister, commented that helping others out of snowy jams was something that their late father had started and the victim was continuing the tradition.
"We always had some type of four-wheel drive vehicle, and we would go out and look for people who had spun out in the ditches," Jessica said in a 2016 phone interview. "It was something we always did to help out people in the community."