Life in prison: Kevin Thomas sentenced in slaying of Maryville Aubrey’s manager
By Matthew Stewart | (email@example.com)
That’s the age that 40-year-old Bryan Kevin Thomas will be when he first becomes eligible for parole from the life sentence he received Monday.
During the sentencing hearing, Thomas received life imprisonment with the possibility of parole for the murder of 35-year-old Steven Payne, who was found beaten to death in his Maryville residence on Nov. 25, 2010.
Thomas also received two years, the maximum allowable sentence, for one count of theft greater than $500 but less than $1,000.
On May 31, a Blount County Circuit Court jury found Thomas guilty of one count of second-degree murder, one count of first-degree murder while perpetrating a theft, and one count of theft greater than $500 but less than $1,000. The jury of nine men and three women deliberated for nearly three hours.
During Monday’s hearing, Judge David Duggan heard arguments from Blount County Assistant District Attorney Shari Tayloe and Thomas’ attorney, Ashley Bentley. Katherine Jenkins also read a statement on behalf of Payne’s family and friends.
Tayloe delivered the state’s proof and outlined the case’s enhancement factors. She argued that Thomas had a previous history of criminal convictions and criminal behavior, dating back more than 20 years.
Thomas’ criminal history starts when he was 18 years old, Tayloe said. Most of the criminal convictions occurred in Blount County.
The assistant district attorney also argued that Payne, who was a manager at Aubrey’s in Maryville, was treated, or allowed to be treated, with exceptional cruelty during the commission of an offense. “The repeated blows indicate there was more injury than would have been sufficient for the crime.”
During the trial, Dr. Murray Marks, a forensic anthropologist with the University of Tennessee Medical Center, and Dr. Steven Cogswell, a forensic scientist at UT, testified about the victim’s bone fractures. Payne suffered four strikes to the skull, two to the front and two to the side.
Tayloe also argued that the personal injuries inflicted upon, or the amount of damage to property sustained by or taken from, the victim was particularly great. She noted the forensic evidence again.
Thomas also failed to comply with the conditions of a sentence involving release into the community, Tayloe said. He was on parole at the time of Payne’s death.
Thomas was convicted Dec. 10, 2008, on a charge of possession of drug paraphernalia. In the following 11 months and 29 days, he was charged twice with violation of probation, ultimately resulting in a one-year probation extension.
Tayloe also argued that Thomas had no hesitation about committing a crime when the risk to human life was high. Kristi Dixon, who testified in the trial, was with Thomas at the time of Payne’s homicide.
The assistant district attorney later noted that Thomas met a classification outlined in state law. He was released on probation.
“The court has no doubt that this is an extremely serious offense,” Duggan said. However, the judge advised that he possessed limited sentencing options. The state didn’t seek capital punishment in the case.
Bentley asked for concurrent sentences. She also took issue with several enhancement factors.
Thomas was on probation, but he hadn’t been served with a violation of probation, Bentley said. “It was a technicality at that point.”
Thomas’ criminal history was also composed of misdemeanor convictions, she said. He wasn’t charged with felonies.
“From 18 years old to 35 years old, it’s been continuous,” Tayloe said. “That’s all he’s been doing throughout his life.”
The assistant district attorney later asked the court to consider that Thomas hasn’t cooperated with sentence officers. She advised that he was “combative” and “violent” in an interview.
Duggan found merit with three enhancement factors. He didn’t find merit with two enhancement factors:
• the personal injuries inflicted upon, or the amount of damage to property sustained by or taken from, the victim was particularly great;
• the defendant had no hesitation about committing a crime when the risk to human life was high.
Duggan advised that he couldn’t use the same facts for two enhancement factors: exceptional cruelty and great personal injuries. He also didn’t find that Thomas had no hesitation about committing a crime when the risk to human life was high, because Dixon was an associate.
Bentley later asked that Thomas be transferred to the state Department of Correction “as quickly as possible.” Her client requested the transfer.
Thomas will receive credit for time served in Blount County Jail. He’s been imprisoned since Nov. 26, 2010.