Latoris Grovner, 22, was sentenced to 30 years in prison Monday for the murder of his girlfriend’s mother, Alena Marble, reports the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
The Clayton County man was convicted on voluntary manslaughter charges after “beating his girlfriend’s mother and stuffing her in a trunk to die.”
Grovner confessed that he repeatedly punched the 59-year-old woman, struck her with a vodka bottle and a sauce pot, then left her to die in the trunk of her car in 90 degree weather because she influenced his pregnant girlfriend to have an abortion.
“This is one of the most brutal cases I believe I’ve ever heard,” Clayton County Superior Court Judge Matthew O. Simmons said. “Unfortunately, the jury found the defendant not guilty of malice murder. I find that that ties my hands in sentencing … and not being able to give the sentence to Mr. Grovner that probably he deserves.”
Read more from the AJC below:
Marble’s family lamented the ruling.
“These are man-made laws,” her brother Eugene Donaldson told reporters Monday following the sentencing hearing. “We don’t agree, but all we can do is go by the court’s decision.”
Marble’s granddaughter, Pamela Davis, who was in court every day of the trial, said the family wanted more time in jail for Grovner.
“With a murder like that, we wish they could’ve given him life,” Davis said.
Voluntary manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, according to Georgia statute. The judge added 10 years for an evidence tampering conviction in which Grovner tried to protect his girlfriend, Kajul Harvey, from being convicted of any part in the crime.
Multiple convictions for aggravated battery and aggravated assault were merged with the manslaughter charge.
Prosecutors sought a conviction for malice murder, which would have put Grovner behind bars for life, with subsequent years for five separate counts of felony murder – causing Marble’s death while committing each of the felony assault and battery charges during the beating.
But because the jury chose the lesser included charge of voluntary manslaughter, each felony murder count, which carried its own mandatory life sentence, was nullified, Simmons pointed out.
Only if there were a felony independent of the violence committed against Marble could a felony murder charge, and the accompanying mandatory life sentence, stand, he said.
“I realize that my sentence may be appealed, and I’m going to state the legal basis for my sentence so the state can appeal,” Simmons said. “If someone can tell me how I have inappropriately applied the law, then this sentence can be overturned.”
Simmons also put on the record a message for the state parole board that might consider lessening Grovner’s sentence.
“It is this court’s recommendation that he be denied parole,” Simmons said.
Grovner claimed to investigators during the interview that followed his arrest for the June 3, 2011 beating that he and Harvey, his girlfriend and Marble’s daughter, spoke at length about getting Marble “out of the picture” because she didn’t approve of their relationship.
This might not be the end of the case.
According to Georgia’s statute, there is an exception that may lead to Grovnor being convicted of murder on appeal. It states in part: “…If there should have been an interval between the provocation and the killing sufficient for the voice of reason and humanity to be heard, of which the jury in all cases shall be the judge, the killing shall be attributed to deliberate revenge and be punished as murder.”
Harvey will be tried next month for her possible role in her mother’s death.
Read more at the AJC.