COVINGTON - Two men convicted of killing 55-year-old Rufus Tony Richardson were sentenced to life in prison, plus an additional 25 years, at a hearing Thursday morning in Newton County Superior Court.
Last month, the defendants, Christopher Jarrell Rozier, 21, and Xavier Damone Dyer, 20, were found guilty by a Newton County jury on all counts in the case, including murder, aggravated assault, sale of cocaine and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
A third co-defendant in the case, Willie Dyer, who is the cousin of Xavier Dyer, was acquitted on all charges by the jury.
Assistant District Attorney Melanie McCrorey asked Judge Horace Johnson Jr. to impose the maximum sentence allowed by law in the case, due to the heinous nature of the crime and also because Richardson's family had to endure the trial and hear the graphic details of his death.
"As I said in my closing argument, (Richardson) was treated like a dog and left like trash," she told the judge.
The body of Richardson, 55, was found on the side of a dirt road near Ga. Highway 162 last January. He had been shot six times, including twice in the face.
Authorities say the plot to murder Richardson was hatched because Rozier, Xavier Dyer and an alleged co-conspirator in the case, Liberty Harris, 38, believed he was working as a confidential police informant.
Harris allegedly came up with an idea to kill the victim by providing him with crack cocaine laced with rat poison.
Xavier Dyer, also known as "Pretty Boy," and Rozier, also known as "Big Boy," received the sale of cocaine charge after they were involved in a drug deal with a confidential informant, who was working with agents from the East Metro Drug Enforcement Team, subsequent to the murder investigation.
Prior to the sentencing of Xavier Dyer, who was the first defendant brought into the courtroom, Johnson allowed the victim's family to make a statement.
Richardson's sister, Sherry Richardson-Land, said that her brother's murder has affected their entire family.
"The defendant has not only hurt us, he has taken a part of us away. We loved him," she told the court.
Richardson-Land said that her brother helped watch over her and her 14 siblings and got a job when he was 11 years old to help out their mother.
She said, however, that her brother's hand was injured by shotgun pellets following a shooting incident that occurred when he was in high school and that she believed he never knew how to recover from that.
"There are no winners in this. We will have to live with this for the rest of our lives," she said in her parting comments.
Johnson told the defendant that he hoped he had time to reflect on his actions while he is in prison and that one day he might be able to turn this negative event in his life into a positive.
"This is a bad situation all the way around," Johnson told Xavier Dyer before imposing the sentence.
Rozier was then brought into the courtroom, at which point McCrorey reiterated her position that the maximum penalty should be imposed.
She said that the weight of evidence in the case was against Rozier and that since he showed Richardson "no mercy," that the court should return the favor.
"This defendant has shown no remorse," she told the judge.
Johnson told Rozier the same things he mentioned to his co-defendant and imposed the same sentence.
"When you commit an act, you have to pay a consequence," he said.
Following the hearing, Richardson-Land said she was pleased with the outcome.
"The verdict was fair. The judge was compassionate, along with rendering his verdict," she said. "We have compassion for (the defendants') family, but they will get to see their son again. We won't get to see Tony."
Richardson-Land was also complimentary of the District Attorney's office and the job that McCrorey did with the case.
Another member of Richardson's family, Hortense Gooden, said that she hoped the defendants could find a way to turn their lives around in prison.
"Maybe when (Xavier Dyer or Rozier) get out, (they) can be a role model for someone," she said.
According to McCrorey, both Xavier Dyer and Rozier will have to spend a minimum of 40 years in prison before they can be eligible for parole.
McCrorey said that Liberty Harris' case will more than likely head to trial sometime this summer.
Joel Griffin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.