Verdict reaction and next steps after well-known grocer’s death

Verdict reaction and next steps after well-known grocer's death

PELHAM, Ga. (WALB) -We have more details after a sentence was handed down for the two men convicted of killing a beloved Pelham grocer.

Jerrod Johnson and Herbet Lamar Laster were both found guilty on multiple charges in the 2018 murder of Bob Bettison.

Both were charged with felony murder, armed robbery, malice murder, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and two counts of aggravated assault.

Johnson was found guilty on all charges. Laster was found guilty on all charges expect possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and malice murder.

Prosecutors are addressing the concerns of those who may not understand why both men have been convicted of murder.

WALB News 10′s Asia Wilson investigates why the men were sentenced to life without parole.

Many eyes were on this case. In fact, many people stayed for the verdict and sentencing that didn't wrap up until 8:30 at night.

A number of people were interested in this trial. But now, many emotions and questions are surfacing.

It took jurors close to two hours to decide the fate of Jerrod Johnson and Herbert Laster.

The family of 79-year-old Bob Bettison burst into tears--emotional over the verdict.

And some on social media are concerned with the verdict for Laster. Even Laster himself.

“I was at the wrong place at the wrong time. And I don’t see how they found me guilty of murder because I didn’ know what I mean,” said Laster.

Prosecutors said the answer is simple. He was a party to the crime.

“That’s what Mr. Laster was. He was the lookout. He helped plan and develop a plan as to how they were going to rob Mr. Bettison,” said Joe Mulholland, District Attorney for South Georgia District Office.

Mulholland said Johnson was the shooter at Bettison’s Grocery Store. And Laster scoped out the area and then bought chips.

“Making sure Mr. Bettison was by himself. You had him going in there distracting Mr. Bettison when Mr. Johnson attacked him,” said Mulholland.

Prosecutors said Laster wasn’t at the store the second time Johnson went back to shoot Bettison again.

But because he saw it happen the first time, and held the door open after shots were fired, his life will be spent behind bars.

“If you help someone commit a crime, then you might as well pull the trigger. Because had he not been involved. Again, Mr. Bettison may have been able to have his 80th birthday two weeks,” said Mulholland.

“I’m sorry for y’all lost. I hope one day y’all will forgive me,” Laster added.

Trial still leaves impact on community

People are still reacting over the two-day trial and the verdicts handed down.

The trial came almost a year after the brutal murder at Bettison's Grocery Store.

And after the sentence of the two men, people are still upset this happened.

This even includes the prosecutor in this case.

District Attorney Joe Mulholland said he knew Bettison and was also a shopper at his store in the past.

Jerrod Johnson has been convicted on six counts for the 79-year old's death.

Jurors found Herbert Laster guilty on four counts in the murder.

Investigators said Laster only completed the 10th grade and Johnson completed the 7th.

During the trial, Laster said he wanted to go back to school to become a nurse.

Mulholland said he hates having to prosecute young men when they could be doing something great with their lives.

“I’m not going to be happy until I don’t have 20-year-old’s killing pillars in the community for $426. I’ll be happy when I don’t have to prosecute these crimes and be strict in our sentencing. And instead, have 20-year-old’s going to college instead of committing heinous crimes,” said Mulholland.

Johnson not only faces life but will serve an additional 25 years concurrent with his life sentence.

Next steps in this case

Defense attorneys for two men convicted in a Pelham grocer’s death, now have 120 days to file an appeal.

The Clerk of Court for South Georgia’s Judicial Circuit tells us there could be additional hearings.

This means the Superior Court will hear appeals if any, defense attorneys file.

We’re told if they decide to file an appeal, it will be discussed at the first meeting in November.

Well, the next step, in this case, will be that the Superior Court will hear, if any, appeals on November 20th.

A Clerk of Court official said they haven’t been told whether defense attorneys will appeal.

They said it is often standard practice to do so.

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