Thursday, August 19, 2010

Jacksonville teen found guilty of murder for $3

The 16-year-old faces a mandatory life term in prison at Oct. 4 hearing.

Posted: August 18, 2010 - 6:15pm
Thomas D. Partlow, 16, was convicted of first-degree murder Wednesday in the stabbing death of a man during a robbery with two friends who wanted gas money.  DON BURK/The Times-Union

As the verdict was read, 16-year-old Thomas D. Partlow's mother wept.

Guilty. First-degree murder.

It's a decision that took a Duval County jury of three men and three women about 75 minutes Wednesday to determine, one that will hold Partlow in a state prison for the remainder of his life unless he appeals successfully.

For the family of Grady Williamson, the 49-year-old man whom Partlow was convicted of stabbing to death for $3, the relief was bittersweet.

The man remembered so fondly for his jokes and cooking talents - especially his knack for the grill during family barbecues - is gone.

"The whole entire thing was horrific. ... It's been months and I still can't grasp it," said the victim's sister, Diana Williamson.

Police charged Partlow several days after Williamson's death. According to investigative reports and testimony, Partlow plunged a knife nearly 6 inches into Williamson's chest during a random Northside street robbery on Jan. 25.

In a recorded police interview played for the jury, Partlow told investigators he did it because he thought Williamson was going to run away.

Two accomplices, who told authorities that Partlow did the stabbing, each pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and were sentenced in July.

Marvin T. Clark, 15, was sentenced to 25 years. Gibson Wright III, 17, was sentenced to 30.

An estimated 56 ounces of blood had pooled around Williamson's heart by the time he was pronounced dead at Shands Jacksonville hospital. The three boys made away with $3 - all Williamson had on him as he strolled that night near Lem Turner Road and Edgewood Avenue West.

Investigators said Partlow and Clark dashed out of a Chevy Malibu to jump Williamson in a dimly lit parking lot because the teens were in need of gas money.

"Please accept my humble apology," a man identifying himself as Partlow's grandfather said to Williamson's family outside the courtroom. His voice shook at points and he kept his statement brief.

Partlow's mother could be heard crying in the courthouse hallway after Circuit Judge Mark H. Mahon set an Oct. 4 sentencing date and recessed. Under Florida law, Partlow faces a mandatory life sentence with no chance of parole.

"This is a tragedy for both sides," Diana Williamson said. "Do you think those boys' mothers expected to hear their children were arrested for murder? I'm sorry for their loss as well. There's a lot of hurt people here."

Defense attorney Greg Messore argued to jurors that the evidence in the case was inconclusive. Before Partlow told police that he stabbed Williamson, he told them that one of the other boys did. Messore said the confession was pressured.

"We're dealing with a kid who's 16 years old. He hasn't had an opportunity to speak to his mom. He has ADHD. He's bipolar. He's not the most sophisticated person the police have dealt with," Messore said. "He didn't even know what the word homicide meant when they asked him."

Prosecutor John Guy highlighted the physical evidence in the case. Police had found a sock Partlow used to clean up some of Williamson's blood - right where he told them to look - and discovered some of his blood splattered on the Malibu witnesses spotted Partlow in the night of the attack.

"That man [Williamson] had zero chance," Guy said. "No weapons. No friends. There was no justification for this.", (904) 359-4025