By Linda Looney-Bond
Marquet Sherman Donald, of Hampton, turned 24 Friday, and on his birthday, he received a prison sentence of two life terms, to run consecutively, plus 45 years.
"I tried to structure this [sentence] where parole will be as difficult as possible, because you've shown no remorse," said Clayton County Superior Court Judge Matthew Simmons.
On Thursday, a jury found Donald guilty on 13 of 16 counts, in the armed robbery and shooting that occurred at the Krystal Restaurant, located at 3562 Ga. Hwy 138, in Stockbridge, on July 3, 2008.
Donald had been fired from the restaurant about a week prior to the incident, according to his defense attorney, Lloyd Matthews. Jurors convicted Donald of shooting Krystal Manager Cheryl Alphabet, of Conley, in the head, placing Alphabet and two employees, in a freezer, and stealing money from the restaurant.
He was convicted of several counts of aggravated assault, armed robbery, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, and false imprisonment, as well as one count each of theft by taking and burglary.
Donald was acquitted on one count of aggravated assault, and two counts of aggravated assault on a police officer. The two latter charges stemmed from a struggle Donald had with Clayton County Police Officer Matthew Whitton, as Donald attempted to flee the scene.
In an unrelated incident, Whitton was later fired from the police department following a hoax that gained national attention. Whitton and another man claimed they had discovered the body of the legendary man-ape, Bigfoot.
However, Defense Attorney Matthews said the Big Foot hoax was not mentioned during the trial.
"Judge Simmons precluded me from mentioning that [Big Foot hoax]," he said. "He said he didn't feel it was relevant."
Police said a bag of money that Donald stole from the restaurant during the burglary was found in the woods where Donald struggled with Whitton.
During a tearful statement at Friday's sentencing hearing, the sister of Cheryl Alphabet, the restaurant manager shot by the defendant, described the price her sister has paid because of the incident. "She's not dead, but it's like she is," said Wanda McDowell.
"Before this happened, she was outgoing. She was going to school to get her degree in teaching, because she was a para-professional," McDowell said. "To see her that way then ... and how [she] has no drive [now.] She's afraid for her life 24 hours a day. She has no emotion because of the brain injury. She can't see out of that left eye. She's very angry, because she remembers the defendant. She doesn't remember what happened, but she remembers that he worked for her," McDowell said.
McDowell began to cry when she said her sister does not remember their mother, or their grandmother.
Another sister, Robin Jackson, also addressed the court. "We have her physically, but she is nothing like she used to be," Jackson said. "She had joined a church that loved her dearly, and she was bringing members to the church on a daily basis," she said.
"Even the defendant [Donald] sat here in the courtroom and said he loved her [Alphabet], and she was like a mother to him," Turning to look at Donald, Jackson said, "But not once did I hear him say, 'I did it.' He never said he was sorry. That's unacceptable to us."
According to police, during the robbery at the restaurant, Donald wore all-black clothing, a black ski mask, wrap-around sunglasses and an orange bandana. He was positively identified by a former co-worker, who recognized him by his "oddly-shaped, pointy head," and because he asked her about her new cell phone, police said.
"There were half a dozen eyewitnesses that identified the defendant," Judge Simmons said, prior to pronouncing the sentence. "The evidence shows that he shot Ms. Alphabet in the head, and left her for dead. You don't do that to a dog, much less a human being. I'm going to do what I can to give you the same sentence you gave her - a life sentence," said Simmons.
After he pronounced sentence, Simmons asked Donald whether he had any questions about the sentence. Donald - dressed in a red jump suit, handcuffed, and chained at the ankles - told the judge he wanted to make a statement, and then told the court that he was not guilty of the charges against him.
Alphabet is a single mother of two adult sons, and two young grandchildren, according to her eldest son, Derrick Harmon, 34, of Stockbridge. "I speak for my entire family. We're just relieved that we have some form of closure," Harmon said. "We may still have a lot of anger, a lot of resentment, a lot of broken hearts - not just our family, but his [Donald's] family as well. But, at least now, both sides have some kind of closure."
Defense Attorney Lloyd Matthews said: "I thought the sentence was harsh. There were two consecutive life sentences, and it's my feeling that, that would be appropriate if two persons' lives were taken. That's the kind of sentence I'm used to seeing for a double homicide," he said.
"Sometimes, in criminal cases, you have a little bit of residual doubt, but, in this case, there was no residual doubt," said Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Bill Dixon, the lead prosecutor in the case. "He was absolutely guilty. What he did was horrible."