- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 21, 2014

OPELIKA, Ala. (AP) - A judge followed a jury’s recommendation Wednesday and sentenced a man to life in prison without parole for shooting his mother-in-law to death on an Alabama community college campus.

Prosecutors sought the death penalty for 38-year-old Thomas Franklin May III. Jurors convicted May of capital murder and attempted murder in March and voted 10-2 for a sentence of life without parole.

Judge Jacob Walker agreed and ruled Wednesday that May would spend the rest of his life in prison for opening fire at Southern Union Community College in Opelika in 2011. The shots killed his mother-in-law, Brenda Watson Marshall, inside a van, wounded his estranged wife, and flying glass injured their daughter.

Prosecutor Kisha Abercrombie told the judge that May had a history of domestic violence in both of his marriages and went looking for his estranged wife at the community college after she got a protection from abuse order against him. She said that while he was in jail, he wrote five letters to his victim’s family that contained vile comments.

“They exhibit what was the motive behind the shooting and that was rage and revenge,” she said.

The victim’s family had supported a death sentence and declined comment on the outcome as they left the court. “Today is about our family,” said Bethany Mitchell, who divorced May after the shooting.

May’s attorney, William Whatley, said the entire case he presented was aimed at getting a verdict of life without parole, but he still plans an appeal.

May’s mother, Diane May of Opelika, predicted her son would be a model prisoner. “We’re pleased he’s going to go in there and make something of himself and not get the death penalty,” she said.

A Lee County jailer testified that May wasn’t a model prisoner while awaiting trial. He said May was placed in solitary confinement for disabling the electronic locking device on his cell.

In the sentencing hearing, the judge also ordered a life sentence for the attempted murder conviction.

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