What started on June 11, 2009 with the murder of 53-year-old Tim Clements, ended Thursday afternoon when a jury imposed the death penalty on the alleged ringleader, 25-year-old Pablo Maldonado.
Jurors listened to Maldonado's family the latter part of Tuesday and all day Wednesday tell of his life as a young boy in Mexico, all saying that he was unwanted, unloved and neglected.
"He was raised like a little animal," his cousin Xochitl Morales testified. "The people who were supposed to take care of him didn't care for him, so he didn't understand what love was."
During closing Thursday morning, District Attorney Layla Zon told jurors that the murder of Clements was vile, inhuman, depraved and premeditated.
"This man lost his life for nothing," she said. "I don't think the human heart or the human mind is made to understand this type of evil."
Zon told jurors not to feel guilty about giving Maldonado the death penalty if they thought it was warranted.
"He is a depraved human being whose life certainly has value, but here is why we're here today, because everyone's life has value... God gave him life just like he did Tim Clements. The difference is, Tim Clements valued this man's life, he invested in this man's life... showed him acts of kindness and respect...the only tears you saw in the courtroom is when he's feeling sorry for himself... Don't let the defendant try to make you feel guilty...because of the defendant's actions...we are here today to administer a punishment. Today is a day for judgment. Today is a day for consequences to be paid for his actions... This is not one of these cases you'll be sitting, 20 years from now, wondering if you made the right decision."
Defense attorney Stephen Yekel suggested to jurors that they could sentence Maldonado to live with the possibility of parole and he would not be eligible for 30 years, or life without parole, which would keep him in jail for the rest of his life.
"Nobody can justify for taking a human life unless it's a case of self-defense and you were told from day one this wasn't that type of case...it wasn't just Mr. Maldonado, it was other people involved... You have to make a determination if this 25-year-old man should be killed... This is such an ultimate decision that you can't change later."
Yekel told jurors that all life was valuable, "Is everybody's life valuable? Yes. Was Mr. Clements life valuable? No doubt about it... the question is, does this bring it to a different level?"
"Each one of you... have to make that decision, as to what the punishment is. And it's whether Mr. Maldonado, who always wanted to be free and running the countryside, is going to be in prison for the rest of his life...or whether he should be strapped on that gurney and his life taken from him...do we kill that 25-year-old man? Or do we give him the hope of living his life...in a cell, for the rest of his life. Where he'll die, where he'll never see the light of day... he'll be locked away and forgotten until he finally takes his last breath."
The jurors answered Yekel's question at 2:40 p.m., after deliberating for a little over two hours.
In addition to death, Judge Horace Johnson gave Maldonado additional sentences of life plus 25 years for the other charges he was found guilty of armed robbery, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, concealing the death of another and second degree forgery.
"I extend my appreciation to the jurors for their time and consideration of this case," said Zon. "Tim Clements was a good man, a man I wish I could have met. Hopefully the conclusion of this case will bring some closure to his family, at least with respect to the judicial process. The Newton County Sheriff's Office and the GBI should both be commended for their work on this investigation."