By Joe Gorman
Judge R. Scott Krichbaum told a man he was sentencing on a murder charge Thursday he can’t understand how some people make decisions.
Speaking just before he sentenced 24-year-old Lavelle Stanley to life in prison with no parole plus an additional 19 years for a November shooting in which one person died and another was wounded, Judge Krichbaum said there is too much of a gunslinger mentality in some places today.
“I almost shudder to think how decisions are made anymore,” Judge Krichbaum said. “It’s almost like the Wild West out there.”
Stanley was convicted Wednesday of aggravated murder, attempted murder and felonious assault with firearm specifications for the Nov. 15 shooting that killed 25-year-old Elliott Stewart and wounded his 26-year-old brother, Derrick Stewart, outside a Southern Boulevard car wash the family operated.
Police and prosecutors said two women were arguing outside the business, and Elliott Stewart told them to leave and apparently Stanley, who was on the street, thought the comments were being directed at him and took offense. He and Elliott Stewart yelled at each other, and prosecutors said it appeared that Stanley reached at his waistband as if he had a gun.
Elliott Stewart left for a short time and came back while Derrick Stewart was trying to calm Stanley down, but when Elliott Stewart pulled up, Stanley fired several shots, killing Elliott Stewart and wounding his brother.
Stanley took the stand on his own behalf Wednesday just before closing arguments, claiming the shooting was self-defense and he was afraid for his life. Testimony showed that Elliott Stewart had a gun with him when he returned, but he never fired his gun or even had a chance to get out of his vehicle before he was shot and killed.
Assistant Prosecutor Martin Desmond said people rallied around the Stewarts and helped them by testifying, even though some of the witnesses were scared, because the Stewarts are a good family.
“The community came forward because they recognized these were good people, and they stood up for what is right,” Desmond said. “We need more good people to stand up to the bad people.”
Desmond said Stanley has a record that includes a felonious assault in which he shot someone as a juvenile, then an aggravated riot while he was in a youth-detention facility and a concealed weapons charge as an adult, and he was out of prison and had a gun at the time of the shooting.
Stanley chose not to address the court because of pending appeals. Defense lawyer Tom Zena did say his client was sorry for the incident and that his client still thinks he was acting in self-defense.
Derrick Stewart thanked the jury for their verdicts.
“He put us through a lot,” Derrick Stewart said. “He got what he deserved.”
Robyn Crosby, the aunt of Elliot Stewart, said because Stanley made a decision in the heat of the moment, her whole family is suffering.
“At a moment’s notice, Lavelle Stanley decided to make a split, rash, cowardly decision, and in that moment a beautiful son, a reliable brother, a best friend, a loving companion and the best father ever was taken away,” Crosby said.
Judge Krichbaum said Stanley did not act in self-defense but waited for Elliott Stewart to come back so he could shoot him.
“It’s just a cold-blooded execution,” Judge Krichbaum said. Judge Krichbaum said Stanley should never get out of prison because society needs to be protected from him.
Besides the sentence of life with no parole for the aggravated murder, Stanley also was given a sentence of 11 years for attempted murder and eight years for two firearm specifications — one for three years because he had a weapon and used it, and one for five years because he fired from a moving car. Prosecutors decided not to go ahead with sentencing on the felonious-assault charge because the attempted murder charge carries more prison time.