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Setup man sentenced

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MOULTRIE, GA (WALB) -

A fugitive arrested last week in Macon by marshals after failing to show up for sentencing in a deadly Colquitt County armed robbery learned his fate in court Wednesday.   

Michael Russell was supposed to be sentenced weeks ago following a plea deal in the murder of Michael Hewitt, Junior, but he skipped town.

Wednesday,  he came face to face with the family of the man he set up to be robbed.      

Russell walked into the Colquitt County courtroom in a jail issued jumpsuit. It's a place he had avoided knowing he was facing 20 years in prison.    

Russell's attorney explained to the judge that his client planned the September 2011 robbery of Billy Hewitt, Junior, but didn't know it would turn deadly. 

"I want to apologize for my actions. I want to apologize to my family and to Billy's family," said Russell.  

Prosecutors say Russell and Hewiit worked together at National Beef. In a plea deal, Russell testified that he set up Hewitt to be robbed by convicted triggerman Phirronnious Edwards, who shot Hewitt to death outside his Colquitt County home. In a plea deal for his testimony against Edwards, his murder charge was reduced to armed robbery.  

Clutching a picture of her murdered son, Hewitt's mother and father addressed the judge asking for the maximum sentence.  

"In the case, you are to serve 20 years in the State Department of Corrections," said Judge James Hardy.  

Clearly emotional, it was closure for Hewitt's family. Just 29 at the time of his murder, he was just one class shy of graduating from Valdosta State. He also left behind a 2-year-old son.  

"He's asking me every day, 'Where's daddy?' I say 'daddy's in Heaven.' He says, 'Grandma, I want to call Heaven and speak to my dad,'" said the victim's mother, Dorothy Hewitt Jones.  

His mother says she's found forgiveness. She's seen justice. But it won't bring back her son, an innocent victim of a senseless crime.

As part of his plea deal Russell was out of jail awaiting sentencing when he disappeared in March.  

He was not sentenced for failure to appear, but prosecutors say those who helped him hide could still face charges.

 

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