Calling 17-year-old Kenny Bryant "a hardered criminal," a Fairfax Circuit Court judge sentenced him yesterday to life plus 70 years in prison for murdering a store manager, wounding a second man and committing two robberies during a late night shooting spree last August.
Chief Judge Barnard F. Jennings, while handing out the sentences recommended by the jury that convicted Bryant last month, said that if he had heard the case without a jury. "I would have had no problem imposing the maximum sentences."
The maximum would have been three life sentences -- one each for first-degree murder and the two armed robberies -- and 20 years for malicious wounding. Bryant's sentences were less than the maximum --the robbery charges.
Bryant, who has been in and out of juvenile institutions in Kentucky since he was 9, will be in prison at least until he is 32. He is eligible for parole in 15 years. Without parole, he could not be released, with credit for good behavior, until he is about 95.
Bryant was convicted of shooting to death store manager James D. Cox at the 7-Eleven store in the 7300 block of Richmond Highway in Southeastern. Fairfax County on Aug. 17. According to police testimony, Bryant shot Cox in the chest, in the back, and then, while the victim lay on the floor, said "Well, I might as well finish him off."
Bryant testified he shot Mohammed Younes night manager of the service station in the same block, a few minutes later, because the attendant tried to look at him.
In addition to the two shooting convictions. Bryant was convicted of robbing both the store and the station.
Wearing the blue shirt, jacket and pants he had worn at other court appearances. Bryant showed no visible reaction to the sentence.
Asked by Jennings if he had anything to say, the youth, who was once convicted of trying to burn down a courtroom in his hometown of Owensboro, Ky., said "No" and then quickly sat down.
After the few specators left a bailiff handcuffed Bryant's arms behind him and led him down a back staircase to the county jail, his home since he was arrested shortly after the shooting spree of last Aug. 17 at a 7-eleven store and service station on Richmond Highway in southeastern Fairfax County.
Interviewed in his cell Monday Bryant said that he had lived by a code of violence in his home of Owenshoro a rough town on the Ohio River in west
He spent a few months in Owensboro, where his divorced mother, a sister and two brothers live. He dated an old girl friend, but decided not to ask her to marry him, he said, because she had been going out with other young men.
What he wanted to do, he said, was go somewhere "where people don't know who I am." He chose Fairfax County where a stepbrother from his mother's first of three marriages was living and running a produce stand.
When Bryant got to Fairfax, he said his father was there paying a visit too. "My father," Bryant said, you just feel good being around him. He cuts up with you." Bryant said he was introduced to alcohol by his father when he was about 8.
In Fairfax, they cut up, Bryant said, in the bars on Rte 1. "I started drinking real heavy." said Bryant, who claims he has had a severe drinking problem for half his 17 years and never been treated for it. "I just laid it on. I couldn't stop."
On the night of the killing, woulding and robberies, Bryant claimed he was drunk from an evening of drinking beer and whiskey.
There are no indications in Bryant's Kentucky records that he was treated for alcoholism. His defense attorney Paul A. Scott said most of Bryant's criminal episodes were the direct or indirect result of drinking or glue sniffing.
Prosecutor Robert F. Horan, however, said the 1972 examination would have identified alcoholism, if the condition had existed. He also said that a Fairfax Juvenile Court judge, in recently certifying the youth as an adult for trial, saw no need for commitment to a mental institution, where alcoholic prisoners are treated.
Scott said, however, that the judge made the decision without an examination to determine whether Bryant was an alcoholic.
In prison, Bryant hopes to learn a skill as a bricklayer or welder. "I'm going to be in prison through my 20s and part of my 30s. but I did something wrong. I'm going to have to get a better understanding of what I did."
"These are not things I'm trying to make myself believe. I know them, I'm tired of being locked up."