The man convicted of killing a woman in a 2011 Midtown shooting spree that left another woman paralyzed from the waist down was sentenced to life without parole plus 65 years in prison Thursday.
A Fulton County jury found Mr. Nkosi Thandiwe, 23, guilty of murder, aggravated assault and weapons charges in connection with the murder of 26-year-old Brittany Watts and the shooting of two other women, the district attorney's office said.
“This I do find to be by the nature of the act of on July 15, 2011, to be very random, very hate-filled, very heinous, very vile,” Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kelly A. Lee said as she handed Mr. Thandiwe his life sentence, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
That day Atlanta police officers responded to a call of ‘shots fired’ and discovered Ms. Watts’ body on the third floor parking deck of the Proscenium building where she worked.
The victim was attempting to enter her car when she was approached by Mr. Thandiwe who shot the woman in the neck and then fled in her car, the district attorney's spokeswoman Ms. Yvette Brown said.
Two other women attempting to exit the deck were also injured by bullets fired by Mr. Thandiwe as he sped away from the scene.
Ms. Lauren Garcia was shot in the torso and Ms. Tiffany Ferenczy was shot in the calf, Ms. Brown said. Both women survived, though Ms. Garcia was left paralyzed.
Mr. Thandiwe turned himself in to police a couple of hours after the fatal shooting.
On Thursday a stoic Mr. Thandiwe faced Judge Lee as she made her ruling. The victims’ families released a collective sigh, while those in court to support him dropped their heads, the AJC reported.
Before Judge Lee gave her sentence,Ms. Brittney Watts’ husband struggled through tears to ask the judge for the maximum sentence for his wife's killer.
“I’ve mourned Brittney for the last 568 days,” he said. “I realize the worst day of my life is in my past … But I also realize the best days of my life are, too.”
Mr. Brian Watts told the judge and jury how only a month before his wife’s death, the couple moved back to Atlanta from Tampa and into his wife’s dream house with plans of starting a family.
“He took everything from me … my soulmate, the family we were going to have,” Mr. Watts said. He said he found himself looking forward “to the day that I die so that I can be with Brittney again.”
Mr. Thandiwe’s mother, Ms. Lynnae Thandiwe, pleaded with the judge for mercy.
“He’s not the ‘Midtown Shooter,’” she said. “He’s not a monster. It’s not consistent with who Nkosi is. Nothing can be gained by putting him in jail for the rest of his life.”
His dad said for his son to commit such a heinous crime, he's either evil or sick, according to media reports. On Wednesday, Mr. Thandiwe testified that he had a mental disorder. But the prosecutor poked hole into his claims Thursday.
“He told you he shot Brittney Watts, Lauren Garcia and Tiffany Ferenczy because he had adopted all these racist ideals,” Assistant District Attorney Ms. Linda Dunikoski said to the jury, the AJC reported. “If race disorder was a [mental illness], then the Ku Klux Klan could murder and kill with impunity.”
Public defender Mr. Wes Bryant borrowed from the prosecutor’s opening statement to suggest that Mr. Thandiwe may have been out of his mind when he shot the women.
The jury took about 30 minutes to find him guilty of all the counts against him.
Mr. Thandiwe’s two surviving victims spoke of the lasting impact the shooting had on their lives.
“I remember feeling the bullet hit my back,” Ms. Garcia said. “I remember the moment between feeling my legs and the stark contrast that followed.”
The UGA grad said she went through months of painful rehabilitation, learning to function as a paraplegic. Now married to her then-boyfriend, Ms. Garcia works full-time for the Midtown advertising agency she was interning with when she was shot.
“I am a victim of a meaningless crime who has a grim outlook on life and her very best days behind her,” Ms. Garcia said.
Ms. Ferenczy, who was shot in the leg, said she's still plagued by nightmares.
“I wake up every night with flashbacks,” she said before lamenting how seemingly thoughtlessly Mr. Thandiwe took Ms. Watts’ life. “Her life should’ve been valued. My life should’ve been valued. Lauren’s life should’ve been valued.”
Despite descriptions of Mr. Thandiwe’s life as extraordinary and kind young man, and pleas from friends and loved ones that he be given a chance to rehabilitate, Judge Lee held to her reservations, the paper reported.
“I do have concerns that on any given day in the future he could have another relapse,” she said. “And I’m concerned about his lack of remorse.”
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