The stepfather of a man gunned down, stabbed and beaten to death in 2009 cried softly Friday morning in Clayton County Superior Court as he remembered one of the last conversations he had with the son he raised as his own.
Vandita Patel, 22, and Jimmy Prak, 23, were killed by men they first met in middle school and considered acquaintances. Superiore Emonte Allen, 24, and Brandon Joran Norwood, 25, were convicted last month of murder in the Jan. 18, 2009, deaths. Co-defendant Santonio Demonta Lucas, 24, was convicted of criminal attempt to commit armed robbery and Violation of Georgia’s Controlled Substances Act.
The trio arranged a drug buy from the two but intended only to steal from the pair, said Clayton County Assistant District Attorney Katie Powers. When the robbery faltered, Norwood and Allen turned on Prak and Patel by shooting, stabbing and beating the men to death.
Prak’s stepfather, Kamara Kay of College Park, took the stand in Judge Geronda Carter’s courtroom Friday morning to give a victim impact statement on the loss of his son. Quiet but obviously saddened and sorrowful, Kay sobbed and wiped away tears with a tissue as he recalled one of the last conversations he had with Prak before he died.
“I think he was trying to help out at home,” said Kay. “I told him the week before he was killed that I’d lost my job. I think he’d gone out to try to help out the family. To this day, I think if I hadn’t told him I’d lost my job, he’d probably not tried to do anything else. I blame myself for three years and I’ve tried to not talk about it.”
Kay married Prak’s mother, Sophorn Kay, when Prak and his sister, Malika Lim, and brother, Terry Prak, were young. Kay said it was a struggle to come into the family and be a father to the three kids.
“The greatest honor he and his brother gave to me was to call me ‘Pop,’ ” said Kay.
Kay told the men he’d intended to tell them he forgave their crimes but decided against it at the last minute because of their own behavior.
“Neither of you have any remorse or any intention of forgiving yourself or being able to look in the mirror and seeing what you did was wrong,” said Kay. “I’m not going to ask you to forgive yourself or apologize. Your apology will never be accepted by me.”
Kay wasn’t far off in his assessment as Norwood and Allen denied any involvement in the murders.
“Just cause what you heard is what it is, it ain’t,” said Allen. “My ultimate judge is God and He knows the truth about what really happened. I feel your pain and I know the person who did this, they’ll get theirs. None of us knows what really happened.”
Powers objected to Allen’s assertions and expressed outrage at the coldness of the crime.
“These three men sat in an apartment and planned this,” she said. “In broad daylight, on a Sunday morning, they executed these two boys. In broad daylight, with families going to church and hanging out together. Vandita begged them to stop but they left them to die like pieces of garbage.”
Norwood also distanced himself from the crimes.
“I really didn’t have anything to do with this situation,” he said. “I been wanting to say that so bad, I had nothing to do with this situation.”
Powers wasn’t moved by Norwood’s pleas of innocence.
“By his own statements, Jimmy Prak grabbed his leg and said, ‘You know me, why are you doing this?’ ” said Powers. “He was as much a part of the planning and the actions after as the others. It must not have been that heinous to him, he stayed with them afterward.”
Patel’s family was too emotional to speak publicly so Powers read from a prepared statement. Patel was the only son. In the statement, Patel’s sisters told the court that their mother doesn’t even know how her son died.
“ ‘Our mother was told he’d had a heart attack after watching his friend, Jimmy, die,’” according to the statement Powers read. “ ‘That’s why she wasn’t at the trial.’ ”
The sisters wrote about their own daughters missing their uncle.
“ ‘My daughter wants to call God to talk to him,’ ” read Powers. “ ‘But my older daughter tells her the dead can’t come back ever and God doesn’t have phones.’ ”
The sisters talked about their Asian culture where sons are revered.
“ ‘In our culture, the son is the parents’ retirement,’ ” read Powers. “ ‘Their inspiration for life was taken without warning. The son is supposed to look after the sisters. When the nieces marry, he is supposed to help pick out the dresses.’ ”
Under Georgia law, convicted murderers face a mandatory minimum life sentence. Carter sentenced Allen to two consecutive life sentences plus 35 years. She sentenced Norwood to life plus 20 years.
Lucas was not convicted in either murder. His attorney, Cerille Baron Nassau, pleaded for leniency. The defendant’s father, David Lucas, took the stand to also plead for mercy for his son, telling the court how his son survived a massacre that took nearly his entire family.
“His mother’s boyfriend killed her, my three sons, my daughter and my pit bulldog,” said an emotional Lucas. “He tried to shoot Tony but he raised his arm and the bullet hit his arm. Tony was the only one to survive.”
David Lucas said his son was raised by relatives and was never violent.
“This is a tragedy and loss for both families and I feel sorry for their loss,” he said. “I know about loss. I lost four kids at one time.”
Nassau asked for a split sentence for Lucas, involving probation. Nassau suggested Lucas use his time to speak to young people about his life.
“He has a story to tell,” said Nassau. “He can show the pain of the loss he’s suffered.”
Carter agreed, sentencing Lucas to 20 years, with 10 to be served in prison and the balance on probation with strict stipulations.
“While you are on probation, you will serve no less than 20 hours a week doing community service,” she said. “You will make it clear that the community service hours you are serving are in honor of the victims in this case and in recognition of your part in their untimely deaths. If you do not serve a minimum of 20 hours a week on community service, you will be in violation of your probation and you will return to prison.”
Norwood and Allen will have to serve 30 years before being considered for parole. All three will be given credit for time served since their arrest. Allen’s attorney, Derek M. Wright, told Carter he plans to file for a new trial.