A St. Louis man who killed another man over a spilled beer and a racial slur was sentenced to 65 years in prison Monday morning, a term the judge said would likely see him through the end of his life.
Lamarc Garrett, 36, who has now twice been convicted of Oscar Carbajal's death. His first conviction thrown out after the jury was shown evidence they were not supposed to see.
Garrett declined to say anything during his sentencing hearing on Monday morning after both his parents testified on his behalf.
"You don't want to say nothing?" his mother, Karen Nesbitt, called to her son from the gallery. "You don't want to say anything to the people?"
Garrett turned briefly to look at his mother before facing forward again and saying that he had already apologized.
Attorneys on both sides had spent about an hour presenting evidence to Judge Randall Kelley, who is set to retire at the end of February.
Garrett had been convicted Feb. 7 for killing Carbajal, who may have used a racial slur before dropping a case of beer and splashing Garrett's shoes outside a Sauget convenience store in 2015.
Prosecutor Steve Sallerson read a victim impact statement from Margarita Sanchez, the wife of Carbajal and mother of his daughter. Sanchez was in court but does not speak English.
"The person wrenched his life from him in cold blood," the letter read. "I spent many evenings waiting for him. The letter said she has struggled with accepting Carbajal's death and struggled financially in keeping her and their daughter, Esperanza, housed and fed.
Karen and Clive Nesbitt, Garrett's parents, spoke on his behalf at the hearing. They each spoke of his long-term mental illness including paranoid schizophrenia, and that the Nesbitt's are raising the youngest of Garrett's three children.
"He was a loving child," Karen Nesbitt said in court. "I have four kids, out of those four kids he's the only one who respects me as a mom."
She said he did not smoke, drink or do drugs.
"I don't know what possessed him him to ask for a beer," she said, referring to the night the shooting occurred.
The prosecution questioned her testimony because Garrett's six prior felonies included drug possession and drug trafficking charges. Sallerson reminded Nesbitt that as a convicted felon, her son was not to have a gun at all.
"Prior to (the deadly shooting) someone pulled a gun on him and stole his truck and wallet — he's paranoid," she said. "He didn't know what these people were going to do."
She admitted that her son often had a gun nearby because of his paranoia.
Clive Nesbitt testified that his son's drug use, and the downward spiral his life had been on, was over and starting to turn around before the shooting. He said his son had done his prison time and "tried to get his life together."
"If you're gonna bring up his past, why not his?" Clive Nesbitt said of Carbajal. "He's not squeaky clean either."
Carbajal did not have a criminal history in Missouri or in St. Clair or Madison counties, according to online records.
"This was a cold-blooded killing," Sallerson said in closing.
"Did (Oscar Carbajal) say something he shouldn't have? Probably. Did he deserve to die for it? No," Sallerson said.
Prosecutors asked for 65 years in prison, which is 40 years on the charge and an additional 25 add-on because Garrett was a felon with a gun.
"This defendant is beyond rehabilitation," he said.
Greg Nester, defense attorney with Brian Flynn, said in closing that the crime "was the confluence of a lot of bad decisions" and asked for a 45-year sentence.
"Best case, that puts him out in his 80s," Nester said. "If he's able to reach that age, at that point I don't believe he'd be a threat to society."
In handing down the sentence, Kelley said Garrett's crimes and the resulting sentence were "in effect meting out his own death penalty."
The sentence was "necessary to deter conduct for others," Kelley said. "It doesn't seem to deter it, but we'll keep trying."
"This defendant... while his parents have tried to exhibit remorse on his behalf — his actions and words just don't play out."
Judge Kelley then explained to Garrett his rights under the appeal process. When asked if he understood, Garrett shook his head.
Karen Nesbitt approached Sanchez in the hallway after the hearing, apologizing again for her son's actions.
"I'm deeply, deeply sorry for your loss," she said, expressing her hope that Sanchez takes her daughter to Carbajal's grave and tells her about her father, and that they have both had pain.
"She says she understand your pain as well," translated family friend Sandra Rayes for Sanchez. "But you have a chance to see your son."
Carbajal's was the family's support, Sanchez said after the hearing.
"He was never a lazy guy," Rayes said.
"After all this pain both (families) are going through, she wanted justice served," Rayes said for Sanchez.
Mary Cooley: 618-239-2535, @MaryCooleyBND