After being found guilty last month for the 2010 shooting death of his godfather, Justin Miles Wingate of Smyrna was sentenced to life in prison on Tuesday in Macon.
The Macon Telegraph first reported that more than a dozen friends and family members were in the Bibb County courtroom in show of support for the 20-year-old Wingate, with seven speaking during the sentencing hearing before Chief Superior Court Judge Martha Christian.
Wingate could’ve been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, but instead will be eligible for parole in 30 years. Wingate’s supporters described a good kid who had shown remorse following the events of Jan. 26, 2010.
That’s when Wingate and three friends drove to Macon for the purposes of Wingate getting money for his birthday from his 58-year-old godfather, Michael Wilkins.
In February, a jury convicted Wingate of armed robbery and the murder of Wilkins in his Macon home. The three others - Adrian Jamar Sparrow, 19; Tavion Simms, 20; and Simms’ girlfriend, Shantia J. Horton, 19, - all of Decatur, were also charged with murder in the case. According to jail records, all three remain in the Bibb County jail and their cases are pending.
According to the newspaper, both of Wingate’s parents were in the courtroom Tuesday and his mother, Gwen Brinkley, said her son loved the victim, and even called Wilkins “Daddy Mike Mike.’’
She commented that her son was a “follower’’ and had made a poor choice in friends. Judge Christian indicated she considered many factors in determining the punishment, including his “lack of criminal history’’ and trial evidence presented that didn’t point to Wingate pulling the trigger, even though he was involved in the killing.