A Clayton County Superior Court judge sentenced a Morrow man to life plus five years in prison for the 2010 shooting death of his friend.
Tony Van, 28, took the stand during his trial last week to plead his case of self-defense in the shooting death of Jonathan Pringe, 20. But the jury didn’t buy his story and convicted him of murder and other felonies. Van could have gotten life plus 15 years, said Clayton County Assistant District Attorney Caroline Owings.
Judge Matthew Simmons heard from several of Pringe’s relatives prior to sentencing. They lamented what they will miss because of his untimely death, said Owings.
“Two of his cousins and his sister testified,” she said. “His sister indicated that he was her only full-blood brother. She was pregnant at the time he was killed and her child will never know his uncle. The cousins said the same thing, they don’t know how to explain the loss to their children.”
Clayton County Assistant District Attorney Deah Warren prosecuted the case with Owings. It was the first murder trial for both attorneys.
“They all indicated he was someone they could talk to, he made them laugh,” said Warren. “He encouraged them. That’s what’s missing from their lives now.”
None of Pringe’s relatives wanted to talk publicly after the sentencing hearing ended.
Van’s attorney, Cal Leipold, told Simmons he will not be representing him during the appeals process.
“I think it is inappropriate to represent him on appeal and frankly, the family can’t afford to hire counsel for the appeal,” said Leipold. “He will have to have a court appoint him an attorney.”
Simmons asked Van if he would like a public defender.
“Yes, sir,” he said.
Van didn’t make any other statements.
The night of the shooting, the two men were in Van’s Acura after a night of gambling and hanging out. At some point, the two argued and Van told police an intoxicated Pringe threatened to slice his throat. Van told police Pringe was known to carry a knife and he saw Pringe reach into his pocket.
But Van later changed his story and said he never saw a knife and never saw Pringe reach into his pocket. Other witnesses testified that Pringe was not armed when he was shot.
Owings said Van stopped the Acura, turned off the ignition, set the parking brake, took off his seat belt, got out of the car, folded the seat back, reached under the seat for the gun, stood outside the car and fired into it.
That gap in time diluted Van’s self-defense claim but his post-shooting actions didn’t help, either, said Warren. Van drove away, leaving Pringe bleeding to death in the street. He died two hours later at Southern Regional Medical Center, his body almost completely drained of blood, testified the pathologist who performed the autopsy.
Van fled the area and was found three days later in Mount Zion, a small municipality in Carroll County, about 40 miles west of Atlanta. Van will be held in the Clayton County Jail pending transfer to state prison.