MARKSVILLE, LA (WAFB) - Derrick Stafford was sentenced Friday, March 31 to 40 years in prison in connection with a shooting in which a 6-year-old boy was killed and his father was injured.
The 33-year-old former deputy marshal was sentenced to 40 years for manslaughter and 15 years for attempted manslaughter. The sentences will run concurrently, which means he will serve them at the same time for a total of 40 years.
He faced a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison and a maximum of 60 years. A jury convicted Stafford on March 24 of manslaughter for the death of Jeremy Mardis, 6, and attempted manslaughter of his father, Christopher Few.
Things got down right heated outside the courthouse shortly after the announcement, where attorneys, family members, and concerned residents addressed the media, reacting to the sentence. Emotions ran high outside the courthouse Friday afternoon. While some call the sentence justice for Jeremy Mardis, others say the final outcome was unfair.
Bertha Walker Andrews, Stafford's aunt, refused to hold back after learning her nephew's fate. She blasted the judge's ruling, calling the sentence a modern day form of slavery.
"All of you that prosecuted him and all of you that have this hatred in your heart, I hope you die and when you die, you go to Hell," Andrews said. "Because a black man ain't had no right to kill no white man. It ain't changed. Y'all can call it what you want to."
Connie Gagnard, a member of a local group called Justice for Jeremy, says she completely disagrees with that assessment. "From day one, they tried to make this a race thing. We have never brought up race," Gagnard said.
Gagnard believes the case was not about race, but rather the facts. "When somebody is shot at 14 times and a total of 18 times, you can't tell me they were not out to kill him," Gagnard added.
She says finally, justice has been served and 6-year-old Jeremy Mardis can now rest after being shot to death on November 3, 2015 during a traffic stop with his father at the wheel. Stafford testified that had he known a child was in the vehicle, he never would have opened fire.
"Forty was what judge Bennett gave and we finally feel today that Jeremy got his justice," said Gagnard.
Lead prosecutor, John Sinquefield, says the judge's decision was more than fair. "He appeared to give a very considered and wise decision on the sentence," said Sinquefield.
Stafford's attorneys, while not pleased with the outcome, say they will have to stay positive. They say they stand firm in the belief that their client will one day go free. "He won't spend the rest of his life in jail, so you know you got to find the good in the bad," said Christopher LaCour.
Stafford's attorneys filed for an appeal, however, that appeal was denied on March 7, 2018. Stafford will remain in jail.
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Norris Greenhouse Jr., the other deputy marshal accused in the shooting death of Jeremy Mardis, will also have his day in court. Greenhouse's trial is set to begin on June 12.