Gun charge nets trick-or-treater killer 16 years

AP News
|
Posted: Dec 14, 2009 6:16 PM

Quentin Patrick will spend at least the next 16 years in prison because the convicted drug dealer, paranoid of being robbed, answered a Halloween knock on his door with a barrage of bullets from an AK-47, killing a 12-year-old South Carolina boy.

But the 16-year, eight-month sentence handed down Monday was just 20 months more than the minimum Patrick could have faced after pleading guilty to a federal charge of being a felon in possession of a weapon.

"We wanted to see a life sentence, or at least something more than this," said Daphne Grinnell, who was in the family van when the shooting broke out Halloween 2008 and tried in vain to save her dying son T.J., hit by 11 bullets.

But Patrick still faces murder and assault charges in state court, and prosecutor Kelly Jackson said he will decide what to do about that case later. Jackson said Patrick could face 30 years to life in prison if convicted of murder.

T.J. Darrisaw was returning home from a city-sponsored party with his family when they decided to trick-or-treat at a few houses on the way back. They stopped at Patrick's home in Sumter because the front porch light was on _ the traditional signal to welcome kids on Halloween.

T.J., wearing a ghoulish mask like his brother, sprinted onto the front porch and knocked. Inside, Patrick's girlfriend peeked out the window and screamed there were three large men in masks carrying a rope outside the door, according to his confession cited by prosecutors.

Patrick grabbed his AK-47 from the kitchen. It had been modified to keep firing with just one pull of the trigger. He emptied the magazine, firing 30 shots into the front of the house, according to court documents.

"T.J. Darrisaw ran up so he could be the first in line for the candy," federal prosecutor Stacey Haynes said. "Unfortunately, he was the first in line for 11 shots."

T.J.'s father and 9-year-old brother were struck twice and survived. A third brother was not hit.

Patrick opened the door, stepped over T.J.'s body, figured out he wasn't shooting at robbers, then ran back inside, passing his screaming 2-year-old daughter to put down the gun.

When police arrived, Patrick walked out, his palms up, and admitted to the shooting. Inside, investigators found $7,500 in cash, about four ounces of powder cocaine and items needed to turn powder cocaine into crack, prosecutors said.

Patrick wasn't supposed to have a gun because of felony drug convictions. His lawyer said he became increasingly paranoid since being shot during a robbery about 10 months before the Halloween shooting.

Patrick apologized to the boy's family at Monday's hearing, saying he wished he could bring T.J. back. But he disagreed with the prosecutor saying what happened that night was murder.

"I don't see myself as a murderer, sir," Patrick told the judge.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Perry seemed to agree. Instead of treating the crime as murder, which would have meant stiffer sentencing guidelines, he chose to treat it as voluntary manslaughter, dropping the recommendation closer to the minimum of 15 years.

The boy's family asked the judge for a life sentence, and Perry pointed out that was still possible in state court.

"We'll be there every day," Daphne Grinnell said of a possible state trial. "We know he deserves to be in jail the rest of his life."