VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) - The trial for the murder of a Valdosta man outside a Valdosta convenience store in 2013 came to a surprising halt Tuesday morning when Antoni Tippins, the man about to go on trial for the murder, agreed to a last minute plea deal.
Antoni Tippins' first cousin told WALB after court was adjourned that Tippins made the decision after learning the defense's last remaining witness would not be able to testify.
"I have been informed by [your attorney] and by the District Attorney that you wish to change certain pleas that you had previously entered 'not guilty'," said the judge, as he repeated to Tippins, for the sake of confirmation, what he had been told just a few minutes earlier as the trial was preparing to start.
And with that, the murder trial for Antoni Tippins, also known as "Snapper", was literally over before it began.
"All his witnesses had done backed out, they sent one to prison last night and then one wasn't able to be here for whatever reasons it was," said Tippin's first cousin, Yolanda Robertson. "It seemed like the odds were against him, so he done what he felt was right."
By changing his plea, Tippins' murder charge was reduced to voluntary manslaughter, though his charge of aggravated assault remained unchanged.
Tippins plead guilty to shooting and killing Jarid Little outside Gordon's Food Mart on July 30th, 2013.
"He fires six shots. Five of the shots hit the vehicle, one of them goes through the driver's window and hits the victim in his back resulting in his death," said Southern Judicial Circuit Chief Assistant District Attorney Brad Shealy, as he explained the facts of the case to the judge.
Tippins was sentenced to 15 years in the department of corrections for the voluntary manslaughter charge and 10 years probation for the aggravated assault. The sentences will be served consecutively.
Tippins will get credit for a year and a half he's already spent in jail since he turned himself March of 2014.
"Of course I'm happy. Whatever made him happy is what makes me happy," Robertson emphasized. Little's family, though, was extremely unhappy. They did not want to speak after court was adjourned.
Tippins was also ordered to pay $4,000 dollars in restitution to Little's family for funeral expenses.