- Associated Press - Saturday, October 14, 2017

EDGEFIELD, S.C. (AP) - A Georgia man once sentenced to death in South Carolina for torturing and ordering the killing a 16-year-old boy will now spend the rest of his life in prison.

Steven Barnes, 36, was found guilty of murder Friday after an hour of deliberations by an Edgefield County jury, Solicitor Rick Hubbard said.

Barnes ran a teen prostitution ring in Augusta, Georgia, where clients were robbed after having sex, and 16-year-old Samuel Sturrup was one of several teens who liked to hang out with him, investigators said.

But in September 2001, Barnes thought Sturrup robbed him. He beat the teen with his fists, a metal pole and a shock absorber, stuffed him in a car trunk and drove toe Edgefield County with several other people, authorities said.

Barnes forced Sturrup into the woods, where he ordered another teen to shoot the victim in the head. Sturrup’s disappearance went unsolved for three months until a dog found a skull with a bullet hole, investigators said.

Barnes had been sentenced to death, but the South Carolina Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 2013, saying he should have been allowed to represent himself at his death penalty trial. Barnes had defense lawyers at this week’s trial, prosecutors said.

All the others with Barnes the night Sturrup was killed served lengthy prison sentences, either for the sex ring or the beating, authorities said.

Hubbard said Charlene Thatcher pulled the trigger. She is serving 20 years in prison in Georgia.

Sturrup’s family attended some of the trial and were thankful to see Barnes get a life sentence, Hubbard said in a statement.

“This is the long awaited answer the Sturrup family has been seeking for 16 years,” Hubbard said.

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