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Life without parole for car crash homicide trial
Judge says both defendants equaly responsible
Shirley Aiken was killed when a vehcile carrying Ntyono Pennie and Torrence Sanders crashed into her car as they fled the scene of an armed robbery.

Otyono Pennie and Torrence Sanders were sentenced to life without parole after they were found guilty on all counts on Thursday for an armed robbery, shooting, and a car crash that killed a 56-year-old woman.

Loud sobs broke out from relatives in the courtroom as Judge Sidney Nation announced the sentence, which was the one recommended by District Attorney Richard Read. The defendants, allowed to dress in civilian clothing and remain uncuffed during the trial, were immediately taken away in handcuffs.

"I believe the people of this state and this county have the right to say… we’re sick and tired of this behavior," said Nation. "This foolishness has got to stop."

"Mr. Pennie and Mr. Sanders are in my judgment are equally responsible... You were both in it, you both did it, you both get the same punishment - that's going to be life without parole."

After two days of hearing testimony, the jury reached their verdict with less than two hours of deliberation and only one question – a request to see dashboard video camera footage of the chase again.

On February 23, 2010, Pennie and Sanders held up three men at an apartment in Harvest Grove (now called Woodland Trace) at gunpoint, robbed them, and shot one person, Danny Rakestraw, in the arm. As they fled the scene in a Nissan Maxima, a deputy pulled up behind them, and the defendants fled through the intersection of Salem Road and Flat Shoals, crashing into the vehicle of Shirley Ann Aiken, who died at the hospital from a torn aorta. After the crash, both Pennie and Sanders fled on foot, but Pennie was apprehended. Sanders was arrested eight months later during a traffic stop in DeKalb.

Before sentencing, Aiken’s sister, Dr. Barbara Hodges of Murphreesboro, Tenn., gave a statement, emphasizing the role of choices.

Sanders’ mother and Pennie’s mother-in-law pled for leniency, and asked the judge to think of Pennie’s wife and children.

Afterwards, Hodges said her sister would have been pleased with the verdict.

"Nobody’s a winner here," said Hodges. "There’s many losses on both sides. It’s always been about choices. Whatever choices you make, you have to be responsible for. My sister would rather be here right now, and a lot of her choices were cut short."

"I feel like justice was served," said Aikens’ close friend Michelle Houston. She had written letters to Pennie and Sanders while they were in prison, because she wanted them to know Aikens' "life mattered."

She said she understood where Pennie’s and Sanders’ mothers were coming from. "But it still goes back to choices."


For a day-by-day account of the trial, see previous articles, to the left.