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Jonesboro man says son’s death was ‘awful mistake’

Judge sentences Clarence Jenkins Jr. to life in prison with the chance of parole

Clarence Jenkins Jr. listens as Clayton County Superior Court Judge Albert Collier sentences him to life in prison for killing his son in November 2012. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)

Clarence Jenkins Jr. listens as Clayton County Superior Court Judge Albert Collier sentences him to life in prison for killing his son in November 2012. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)

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Clarence Jenkins Jr. with his attorney, Larry Melnick, in Clayton County Superior Court Thursday. Jenkins was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his son, Chavarious Jenkins, in November 2012. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)

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Clarence Jenkins Jr. addresses the court Thursday. Judge Albert Collier sentenced him to life in prison for murdering his son, Chavarious Jenkins, in November 2012. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)

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Clayton County Assistant District Attorney Jay Jackson asks for life in prison for Clarence Jenkins Jr., convicted of murder in the November 2012 death of his son, Chavarious Jenkins. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)

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Clarence Jenkins Jr.’s aunt, Betty Peterson, testifies that her nephew loved his son and was a good father. She said she thought the shooting that killed Chavarious Jenkins was an accident. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)

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Marquis Hayslett testifies that Chavarious Jenkins was his best friend and ‘brother’ and that Clarence Jenkins was like a second father to him. He said father and son had a good bond. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)

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Clarence Jenkins Jr.’s sister, Rachel Carter, tells Superior Court Judge Albert Collier that her brother was raised in a Christian home and has been devastated by the loss of his son, Chavarious Jenkins. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)

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Kenneth Lynch testifies that Clarence Jenkins Jr. was like a little brother to him who would do whatever he could to help others. The two men have been friends for 14 or 15 years, he said. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)

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Wardell Jennings was the first defense witness to testify on behalf of Clarence Jenkins Jr. Thursday afternoon. Jennings, a Fulton County sheriff’s deputy assigned to the U.S. Marshal’s Fugitive Unit, said he and Jenkins rode motorcycles and cooked out together. Jennings said he never saw the defendant in a violent situation. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)

JONESBORO — A Jonesboro man convicted of murder in the November 2012 death of his son said it was an “awful mistake” and asked for leniency in his sentencing Thursday.

Clarence Jenkins Jr., 41, of Chapman Street was convicted last week in the murder of his only son, Chavarious Jenkins, 22. Testimony showed the two argued over whether the older man would help his son get married.

The older Jenkins man left the house, got his gun from the car in the driveway and returned to the house where he shot his son once in the head just above his eye. The younger man lingered for two days before dying at Grady Memorial Hospital.

Jenkins told Superior Court Judge Albert Collier he didn’t mean to kill his son and that the jury reached the wrong verdict

“This was an awful mistake on my part,” he said. “I really wish the jury had looked at evidence we had but couldn’t present. I’m not sure the trial was totally fair. I didn’t even get a plea bargain.”

Collier said he had sympathy only for the Jenkins family.

“My heart goes out to your family because they have lost as part of their lives two members of their family,” he said. “A son by his death and you because of your actions. My heart does not go out to you. You introduced a gun to the situation between you and your son. You caused your son’s death.”

Collier had little discretion in sentencing. Under Georgia law, a conviction of murder brings a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison with the chance of parole after about 30 years. Because Jenkins used a firearm during the commission of a felony, the law calls for a mandatory five year sentence to be served consecutively to other sentences.

Jenkins was sentenced after a string of his family and friends gave character testimony on his behalf. They all testified that Jenkins was not violent, loved his son and had a good relationship with him. His only sibling, sister Rachel Carter, said they were raised in a Christian home with morals and values.

Her nephew’s death and brother’s subsequent arrest has devastated him and the family, she said.

“I lost a son in 2003 and it was left to me to tell my brother his son was deceased,” she said. “He fell into my arms. He had a deep sorrow like part of his soul had died. There was a lot of heartache. He spent many a day at his son’s gravesite at the church.”

Jenkins’ aunt, Betty Peterson, traveled from Johnsonville, S.C., to testify in his sentencing hearing. She is a sister to his mother, Ruth.

“He’s a fine father,” she said. “He was always an obedient son, a distinguished man always taking care of his child. He’s also very spiritual. He knows who the Lord is.”

Peterson said Jenkins was raised on a foundation that included the 10 Commandments.

“He knew ‘Thou shalt not kill,’” she said. “I think he’s deeply hurt and if he had the opportunity to replay the incident, he would. If his son were here, he’d say, ‘Let my father go’ because it won’t bring him back.”

But Clayton County Assistant District Attorney Jay Jackson, who prosecuted the case with Meredith Chafin, said Jenkins knew what he was doing.

“In a fit of anger, he killed his son,” he said. “It must be the most conflicting feeling for the family to deal with. You heard the truth from the jury. All we have left is the law and it’s clear on the subject of murder.”

Jenkins was represented by defense attorney Larry Melnick. Melnick told Collier that another attorney who specializes in appeals is planning to file post-conviction motions in the case.