Man who killed Macon godfather gets life sentence

awomack@macon.comMarch 23, 2011 

A 20-year-old Smyrna man was sentenced Tuesday to serve life in prison for robbing and killing his godfather in Macon last year.

In February, Bibb County jurors convicted Justin Wingate of armed robbery and murder after about an hour of deliberation.

Wingate fatally shot 58-year-old Michael Wilkins on Jan. 23, 2010, in Wilkins’ Springwood Drive home near Northeast High School in Macon.

Wingate won’t be eligible for parole for 30 years.

While sentencing Wingate, Chief Superior Court Judge Martha Christian said she took several factors into account in determining the punishment: his age, lack of criminal history and the evidence presented at trial that shows Wingate was involved in the killing but doesn’t point to him pulling the trigger.

“Sentencing is one of the most difficult tasks a judge has to do,” Christian said.

The judge said she also considered testimony given at Tuesday’s hearing.

More than a dozen friends and family members were on hand to show their support for Wingate. Seven spoke during the hearing, including Wingate’s parents, and described “a good kid” who was remorseful and had redeeming qualities. They pleaded for the judge to sentence Wingate to life in prison, the lesser of two sentences he was eligible to receive. He also could have received life without the possibility of parole.

Wingate’s mother, Gwen Brinkley, said her son didn’t make a wise choice in friends and was “a follower.”

She said Wingate loved Wilkins and called him “Daddy Mike Mike.”

Horace Wilkins Jr. testified that he wanted Wingate to be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, not just to achieve justice for his brother’s death, but also because he feared Wingate might harm someone else.

He said he watched Wingate during the trial and didn’t see him show any remorse.

“I think he’d do it again,” Wilkins said. “I think someone else would be getting the same call I did.”

Adrian Jamar Sparrow, 19; Tavion Simms, 20; and Simms’ girlfriend, Shantia J. Horton, 19, also were charged with murder in the case. The cases for Sparrow, Simms and Horton still are pending.

Horton, who testified at Wingate’s trial, struck a deal with the prosecution. In exchange for her testimony in the trials of the three men, prosecutors will recommend that she be sentenced to 13 years in prison and seven years on probation on a robbery by force charge. The murder charge and a pending drug charge will be dismissed.

Horton testified that Wingate asked her to drive him to Macon to get money from his godfather’s house, and her understanding was that Wilkins would not be home. She waited in the car while Wingate went into the home.

She said she was in the car when Wingate counted out a large amount of money and handed cash to Simms, Sparrow and to her. She didn’t know Wilkins was dead until days later, Horton testified.

Sparrow also testified and said the group traveled to Macon so Wingate could get money from Wilkins for his birthday. He said Wingate went into the house alone and Wilkins waved at the group as they left.

Simms refused to testify.

Sparrow, Simms and Horton, all of Decatur, are being held at the Bibb County jail, according to jail records.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.

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