COLUMBIA, SC — A 24-year-old former jail guard at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center was sentenced to 60 years in prison Wednesday morning for shooting his pregnant fiancee to death and then setting fire to her body near a Richland County landfill.
“You can count on serving this sentence day by day,” Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein told the killer, Tristan Gist, reminding Gist he must serve the sentence without parole.
“Every moment,” Goodstein stressed.
“Yes, ma’am,” said Gist, standing before Goodstein in a Richland County courtroom. His hands were manacled, and he wore a grey-brown jail jumpsuit. His public defender, Jennifer Davis, stood at his side.
Assistant 5th Circuit Solicitor Meghan Walker told a tale of the macabre shooting of Dierra Fisher, 22, at the couple’s apartment while she lay in bed sleeping.
Using the killer’s own words, Walker read from a four-page confession he gave Richland County sheriff’s investigators in early March 2013.
The two had been arguing, and he was depressed that he didn’t have enough credit to buy a house, and she had threatened to leave and take the two preschool-age children with her. The children were sleeping in an adjacent room.
Loading a Glock handgun with 15 bullets he had bought at Walmart, Gist said, he went to her side of the bed and shot her once in the head. Then he wrapped her body in trash bags and loaded it in the back of his truck.
Taking the two children with him because he didn’t want to leave them in the apartment alone, Gist then drove around for hours, at one point buying a container of lighter fluid. Finally, he found a secluded spot near the county’s landfill on Screaming Eagle Road Extension, drenched it in fluid, set it afire and left.
“He said he didn’t plan to kill her, that she just got to be too much,” Walker told Goodstein.
Asked by the judge if he had anything to say, Gist said, “I hate that I done it. If I could take it back, I would. I made the biggest mistake of my life, and I want to apologize to everybody.” His family members and those of his fiancee were in the courtroom.
Gist’s mother, Yvette Gist, stood and apologized to the Fisher family. Weeping, she said Gist “is my only son” and he had never showed any signs of being a violent person.
Also choking up with sorrow, Dierra Fisher’s sister, Deara, told the judge that, “There’s no words that can be said to bring our angel, Dierra, back. My nephew always says, ‘Where’s my momma?’ We tell him, ‘She’s with the angels.’”
In addition to being charged with the murder of Dierra Fisher, Gist was charged with causing the death of a child in utero during a violent crime and arson involving setting a fire on someone else’s property. An autopsy showed that Dierra was five months’ pregnant when she was killed.
Gist, who completed high school, was a jail guard at Richland County’s Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center, from May 2012 until the time of his arrest in March 2013, a county spokesman said last year.
The 60-year sentence was the result of a negotiated plea, meaning defense and prosecution lawyers had agreed to it. The judge could accept or reject the deal but not modify it.
Gist will be 83 or so when he is eligible to leave prison.