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Man Gets 43 Years in Prison for Child Support Murder

A Virginia man has been sentenced to 43 years in prison for killing the mother of his two children over the prospect of paying child support.

Brandon W. Thomas, 28, stood before Judge Harold W. Burgess on Wednesday for sentencing on first-degree murder and felony firearm convictions. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Thomas represented to the court that the investigation and prosecution's case were "biased, unprofessional, and negligent" and asked that the judge grant him a new trial.

Why did Thomas receive 43 years in this child support murder case?

Recanted Alibi

Thomas' case is a strange one for a couple of reasons. Not least of which is the fact that Thomas confessed to a friend, Don Van Story, that he killed Bobbie Jo Bell, 27, because "money was tight and he couldn't afford to support any more children," reports the Times-Dispatch. The prosecution presented evidence that Thomas was already paying child support for another child of his, and that Bell had filed a child support petition three months before her murder.

Van Story had initially provided Thomas with an alibi, saying that he and Thomas had spent the evening of the killing at Van Story's home. But Van Story recanted a year later, telling police that the alibi had been fabricated; he then offered a version of events that not only implicated Thomas in Bell's murder but was also corroborated by DNA and other physical evidence.

Sentencing Factors

In many cases, like Thomas', the judge has some discretion with how much or little prison time to give to a convict. Judges may consider a convict's prior criminal record, the manner in which the victims were hurt or killed, and even if the defendant is genuinely remorseful.

Judge Burgess had the option under Virginia law to impose anywhere from 20 years to life in prison for a first-degree murder conviction, but maybe 43 years sounded like a good in-between number.

Thomas will have a chance to appeal his case, and given his sentence, plenty of time to strategize.

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