Crime

Jury recommends 27 years in prison for man's role in UK student's slaying

Adrian Benton looked toward the jury during opening testimony in the trial of Benton, accused of murder and other charges in the 2006 death of UK student John Mattingly IIILexington, Ky., on Monday May 16, 2011.   Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff
Adrian Benton looked toward the jury during opening testimony in the trial of Benton, accused of murder and other charges in the 2006 death of UK student John Mattingly IIILexington, Ky., on Monday May 16, 2011. Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff

A Fayette Circuit Court jury recommended Wednesday that Adrian Lamont Benton, convicted for his role in a home invasion that led to the death of a University of Kentucky student, spend 27 years in prison.

The jury, after several hours of deliberation, also recommended that Benton receive drug treatment, anger management counseling, remedial reading instruction and vocational training. The latter recommendations are unusual, according to Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Kimberly Henderson Baird, one of the prosecutors in the case.

She said she had never seen such recommendations written on a verdict form.

Defense attorneys had portrayed Benton as a mentally retarded crack-cocaine addict.

Benton, 31, and Raymond Larry Wright, 29, were accused of shooting John G. Mattingly III in the head on May 25, 2006, after bursting into the home Mattingly shared with several friends. Mattingly, 23, died July 10, 2006, after his life support equipment was disconnected. He was the son of Marion County Judge-Executive John G. Mattingly and Janet Mattingly.

Benton and Wright initially were charged with murder and other crimes, and prosecutors were seeking the death penalty for both. But just before the trial started, Wright pleaded guilty to one count of murder and two counts of complicity to first-degree robbery. Wright admitted he shot Mattingly. Prosecutors have recommended he be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility for parole for 25 years. Wright's plea took the death penalty off the table in Benton's case.

On Tuesday, the jury found Benton guilty of complicity to second-degree manslaughter, one count of complicity to first-degree robbery, two counts of first-degree robbery, one count of second-degree assault and one count of first-degree wanton endangerment. On Wednesday, the jury also found Benton guilty of being a second-degree persistent felon.

The jury recommended that the sentences, enhanced by the persistent felon conviction — 13, 23, 24, 27, 12 and seven years, respectively — be served concurrently.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Brad Bryant said Benton didn't have mercy on the people he robbed at 317 Wilson Street.

One of them, Jeff Proctor, whom Benton struck in the face with a handgun, has to sleep with a gun by his bed now, Bryant said.

"That simple knock on the front door changed everybody's life forever," he said.

Fayette Circuit Judge Thomas Clark is scheduled to formally sentence Benton on July 8 and Wright on June 17.

If the judge follows the jury's recommendations, Benton, who has been in jail nearly five years while awaiting trial, will be eligible for parole consideration in about 15 years.

Henderson Baird said prosecutors will ask the judge to run some, if not all, of Benton's sentences consecutively.

"I know for them, 27 years seems sort of light," she said of John G. Mattingly III's family.

"While my heart breaks for my client's family and the victim's family, I think the jury did an incredible job with a very difficult case," defense attorney Casey Holland said. The attorney said a decision whether to appeal would be Benton's call.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader

  Comments