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Court upholds man's life sentence for killing mom with crossbow over rent

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Upset that his mother wanted him to start paying rent, a man shot her with a crossbow while she slept and then went out to smoke while she bled to death. Still Rodney Thompson attempted to get his life sentence overturned.

But on Tuesday the Supreme Court of Georgia unanimously rejected his plea that the shooting was an accident, according to federal court reports.

In 2008, Thompson, then 39, was living with his mother, Marjorie Lynch, 64, in Bethlehem along with his sister, her three children, and a cousin’s child, officials said.

About a week before she was killed, Lynch told her son he would have to start helping out with the household bills and pay rent or he would have to leave, court documents show. The morning of June 5, 2008, Lynch called 911 and said her son had stabbed her in the back.

Deputies from the Barrow County Sheriff’s Office arrived five minutes later and found Thompson smoking on the porch, prosecutors said. When they entered the home, they found Lynch lying on her bedroom floor near a phone, with a crossbow “bolt” – similar to an arrow – sticking out of her back.

“She was still alive and told one of the deputies she’d been asleep when she was shot,” according to the court documents. “One of the paramedics who arrived later on the scene heard her mumbling, “’he shot me.’”

Lynch was taken by helicopter to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, but she died during surgery from blood loss, officials said. During a search of Thompson’s bedroom, investigators found a crossbow and two bolts.

Thompson’s crossbow required 150 pounds of pressure to cock it, the court documents show. To make the crossbow fire, it had to be manually switched to fire mode, because it could not be cocked while in safe mode.

Thompson, who had pleaded guilty in 1994 to making terroristic threats against his mother, was arrested and taken to the sheriff’s office where investigators said he claimed the loaded crossbow accidentally went off and hit his mother in the back.

Asked why he had not helped his mother after shooting her, he said he had heard her calling 911 and went outside to smoke a cigarette, officials said.

A jury convicted Thompson of felony murder and aggravated assault, and he was sentenced to life in prison. Then Thompson tried to regain his freedom from the state's highest court, but was denied.

“When viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, the evidence presented at trial and summarized above was sufficient to authorize a rational jury to reject Appellant’s accident defense and find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of felony murder based on aggravated assault,” the supreme court opinion said.