Nearly three years after the shooting death of Ashley Obryant Vinson in a drug deal gone bad, the two men accused of his murder entered pleas on Tuesday to the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter in the Newton County Superior Courtroom of Judge Eugene Benton.
Cecil Allen and Julian Holloway, both now 21, attempted to buy marijuana from Vinson.
According to District Attorney Layla Zon, Holloway and Allen drove to the Magnolia Heights apartment complex. When they arrived, Vinson got into the backseat of Holloway’s vehicle.
Vinson left the vehicle to get change and when he returned an argument ensued over Holloway and Allen’s trying to buy marijuana with counterfeit money, according to Zon. During the argument, Vinson motioned to a friend who was in another vehicle and that friend approached Holloway's vehicle, lifting his shirt to reveal a gun. Holloway stepped on the gas, speeding away. Vinson began beating Holloway in the back of the head with his hands.
During the altercation, a .40-caliber handgun was pulled by Allen and during a struggle, Vinson was fatally shot. Holloway drove back to his home in The Links subdivision, parked the car in the garage and shut the door. The duo then began attempting to get rid of evidence, according to Zon. They tried to flush a bullet down the toilet, hid the gun in the attic and were trying to decide whether to dump the car in the lake or burn it when authorities arrived at the home.
In court, Allen and Holloway agreed that Zon's accusations were true and pleaded guilty to reduced charges or involuntary manslaughter, attempted purchase of marijuana, tampering with evidence and removal of body parts from the scene. Both also chose to address members of Vinson's family, who were in the courtroom at the time.
"I just wanted to apologize to the family for their loss," said Holloway, facing them. "I still pray for y'all and I hope you have peace... I never meant for this to happen."
Next, Allen, the gunman, faced the victim's family.
"There's nothing I can say or do to mend y'all's loss," he said. "I apologize and ask for forgiveness. Hopefully one day you'll be able to forgive both of us. Like he said, we never meant for this to happen."
Allen and his defense attorney, Mark R. Gaffney, agreed to a negotiated plea. For involuntary manslaughter he was sentenced to 10 years with the first five to be served in the penitentiary. On the attempted purchase of marijuana he was sentenced to 10 years probation to run concurrent, on the charge of tampering with evidence, he received 2 years probation to run consecutive, and on the count of removal of body parts he received 12 months probation to run consecutively. That means he was sentenced to 12 years but will need to serve five before being eligible for probation. Allen was also ordered to pay $3,500 plus fees and surcharges.
Holloway and his attorney, Thomas J. Ford, declined to a negotiated plea, meaning the judge would sentence Holloway as he saw fit. He received the same sentences as Allen on the last three charges, but for involuntary manslaughter he was sentenced to 10 years with only the first three to be served in the penitentiary. Holloway is also ordered to pay the same amount in fines, fees and surcharges. Ford's request for first offender status for Holloway was denied by Benton.
Both men are ordered to stay away from the victim's family unless the family first approaches them, to stay away from one another and jointly to pay for Vinson's funeral expenses.