Roger Cochran pleaded guilty Monday to two charges of murder in the shooting deaths of his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend while they were in bed.
Judge Robert Hood gave Cochran, 53, two life sentences. He is not eligible for parole, meaning he will die in prison.
Cochran, who has been in jail since October 2007, just after he gunned down Vicki Marcus, 50, and her new beau, Gary Stone, 52, was led off to prison after Hood pronounced sentence.
The small courtroom on the third floor of the Marc Westbrook Lexington County Judicial Center was packed with relatives and friends of Cochran, Marcus and Stone.
The hearing took nearly two hours. Hood listened to statements and witnesses presented by defense lawyer Jack Duncan and assistant prosecutor Angela Garrick of the 11th Circuit Solicitor’s office.
Garrick played excerpts of a 52-minute audio confession Cochran made to detectives after he was arrested, pointing out to the judge that Cochran neither expressed emotion nor said he was sorry.
She told the judge that Stone was shot “point-blank twice” in the groin, a target area that she said illustrated the “malice” of the crime.
Cochran emptied his nine-shot pistol, hitting Marcus twice and Stone four times. She died instantly; he died shortly afterward at a local hospital. The two were lying on the bed in their clothes watching television when Cochran burst in, Garrick said.
Chase Everman, Marcus’ then-14-year-old son who was at the mobile home in a campground along Lake Murray where the two were killed, told Judge Hood he still is traumatized by the event.
Duncan, who urged the judge to give Cochran a 35-year sentence for each killing, presented a report by forensic psychiatrist Donna Schwartz-Watts that stated Cochran suffered from mental illness, but he was not so mentally ill that he didn’t know right from wrong. Schwartz-Watts also said Cochran suffered from panic disorders and major depression and that his thinking skills had been impaired by brain damage.
Cochran also expressed remorse. “He told the judge that he hoped time would bring forgiveness and bring relief to the victims’ families,” Duncan said after court. “He said he has regretted the pain he’s caused all three families and if there was some way he could undo it, he would.”
Cochran had no criminal record as an adult and had a good work record as a welder, Duncan said. Now he takes the proper medication and his mental issues are under control, Duncan said.
The delay in bringing the case to trial was caused in part because the solicitor’s office at first considered it a death penalty case – cases known for their time-consuming complexity to put together. Also, Cochran’s first lawyer dropped out of the case.
After the hearing, Garrick said the sentence was just. “If you are not seeking the death penalty, certainly a life sentence is the only appropriate sentence for someone who kills two people out of jealousy and anger.”
The tragedy was compounded by the fact that, four months earlier, Marcus had broken off her relationship with Cochran and was getting established in a new life and relationship, Garrick said.
“Life was finally getting better for her, but he was angry because she had started this new life,” Garrick said. “He should have known they were not reconciling.”
Duncan said Cochran was “disappointed, but he understood. The judge gave us a fair hearing.”
Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344