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Moments after Richmond teen Tyris Franklin apologized for the first time to the family of the 16-year-old boy he murdered last year, a judge sentenced him to 50 years to life in prison. Franklin, 17, was convicted of first-degree murder earlier this month for gunning down Gene Deshawn Grisby in front of Grisby’s family’s home in Richmond on Jan. 10, 2011. Prosecutors said Franklin, then 16, went to the Crescent Park neighborhood that afternoon seeking revenge after hearing that a group from that area beat up his younger brother.
Jean-Pierre Fordjour, a 19-year-old Suisun City resident, drove Franklin to Crescent Park, where he spotted Grisby outside, exited the car, and shot him multiple times, according to prosecutors. “I don’t know that it was Gene Grisby he was looking for, but it was Gene Grisby that he executed,” Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Leslie Landau said this morning. Franklin sat with his head bowed throughout emotional testimony today from Grisby’s family members, who described the El Cerrito High School football player as a respectful, thoughtful teen who hoped to one day move away from Richmond and travel.
The victim’s aunt, Tiffany Hollister, who witnessed the murder outside of her mother’s apartment last year and held her wounded nephew after he staggered inside, said his grisly death has taken a devastating toll on her and her family. “I can’t sleep at night — I have to keep replaying what happened over and over,” she told the court. Grisby’s father, Terry Bell, wore a football jersey with his son’s image emblazoned on it this morning. “I don’t know if I’ll ever stop crying for the loss of my son,” Bell said.
He noted Franklin’s apparent lack of remorse for the slaying, recalling how he “smirked and laughed” during the preliminary hearing in the case. Michelle Franklin, the defendant’s mother, gave her condolences to Grisby’s family and said her son had confided that he was sorry for the killing, which she said occurred after multiple instances of violence directed against him and his family. Weeping, she said that people had shot into the family’s home multiple times leading up to Grisby’s murder.
She described how, after one shooting, she and her children had to remove glass shards from their grandmother’s face. Another time, a bullet grazed her son’s leg, she said. “He said he just wanted his family to be left alone … he shouldn’t have felt like he had to protect us,” Franklin’s mother told the court tearfully. Franklin himself took a moment to apologize to Grisby’s family members sitting in the courtroom. “I want to say I’m sorry … I don’t know what other words to use,” he said, glancing at the victim’s family. “I really wish this didn’t happen.”
Before imposing the sentence, the judge expressed sympathies to both families for what she called a prime example of a senseless killing. “We’ve lost two young men – and for what?” Landau said. “I would have loved to see these two young men grow up to be the people they were going to be, and neither of them will get that opportunity … because of incredibly stupid choices you made, Mr. Franklin.” Fordjour, the alleged driver of the suspect vehicle, has also been charged with murder and is awaiting a separate trial, prosecutors said.
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