Teen draws 1-year term for role in Casey deaths

February 20, 2004|Jim Logan

LIBERTY - A jury recommended the minimum possible sentence Thursday for a man who killed two Casey County women with his car in 2002.

A day after deliberating 13 hours before finding Philip Moore, 18, guilty of two counts of reckless homicide, the jury took about an hour to decide Moore should spend a year in prison for each count, to be served concurrently.

"That's an answer to prayer," said an overwhelmed Charles Moore, the defendant's father. Philip Moore, who was 17 when the tragedy occurred, could have received 10 years in the state penitentiary.

If Casey Circuit Court Judge James G. Weddle accepts the jury's recommendation, Moore could be eligible for parole in less than seven months. Formal sentencing is scheduled for March 22.


Moore struck and killed Violet Sims, 67, and Nellie Jean Hamilton, 73, on Calvary Ridge Road as he was driving to Casey County High School on Sept. 9, 2002. Drug tests later found marijuana and an antidepressant in his system.

The families of Sims and Hamilton were magnanimous after the sentence was announced.

"This case was never about revenge against Philip Moore and his family. It's about him being accountable for his actions," said Marsha Abel of Mount Olive, one of Hamilton's three daughters.

She conceded, however, that she was disappointed by the sentence.

"I was hoping he would get more time," she said, adding that a longer sentence might help him grow up and get his life together.

Others said the length of sentence was less important than Moore taking responsibility for his actions.

"If that (sentence) corrects his behavior, then it did what it was intended to do," said Vernon Hawkins, a nephew of Hamilton who is a pastor in Jefferson County. "They could put him in jail for 100 years and it wouldn't bring these ladies back."

Hamilton's youngest brother, Kirby Carman, of Normal, Ill., agreed.

"The jury spoke twice," he said. "If it turns this boy around, that's fine. If it doesn't, it wasn't enough. We just wanted to see he's held accountable for his actions."

Testifying in the sentencing phase, Iva Pennington, Violet Sims' daughter, said her mother was "a godly woman" who lived her life as an example of Christian virtue.

"This tragedy has taught me to be the person she wanted me to be," Pennington said, "and I can honestly say I can look at Philip Moore and say that I forgive him."

For Moore and his attorney, Todd Spalding, the sentence was a victory.

"Certainly we were pleased with the one-year sentence," said Spalding, who expects Moore to serve his time in the Casey County Detention Center rather than a penitentiary. "I fully expect him to put this behind him."

In his comments to the jury before the sentencing deliberations, Spalding stressed that Moore had no intention to hurt Hamilton or Sims. He urged the jury to recommend "the lowest punishment the law allows."

"A lot of 17-year-olds make mistakes," Spalding said, his eyes welling with tears as he looked over the jury. "How many things have we all done? I feel terrible about it."

Commonwealth's Attorney Brian Wright was low-key in his remarks to the jury. He told the six men and six women about Moore's guilty pleas to alcohol intoxication and disorderly conduct in Pulaski County in August 2003.

"Mr. Moore's conduct did not change," he said.

But the prosecutor did not ask the jury to consider a particular sentence, although he argued against minimum time.

"I don't know what punishment is fitting in this crime," he said. "It's up to you people."

For Willard Sims, Violet Sim's husband, neither the conviction nor the sentence seem to bring any satisfaction.

"I really miss my wife," said Sims, a quiet man who spent much of the trial helping watch his 4-year-old granddaughter, Sabrina Pennington.

Since his wife's death he's had trouble sleeping in a house that feels empty.

After 42 years of marriage, he can't seem to shake the loss.

"It's something you can't get over," he said. "It'll always be there."

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