A man whose crimes began while he was a teenager and ended with a deadly hold up in Forest Acres will spend the rest of his days in a South Carolina prison.
Kendrick Nesbitt, 42, heard his life without parole sentence on Monday in the Fairfield County courthouse as relatives of his victims, Lynne Thompson of Elgin and Tracy Robert Lowe of Greenville, spoke their grief.
Thompson was shot three times during a robbery on Jan. 21, 2009.
Lowe was shot twice on Jan. 2, 2005, prosecutors said during a plea hearing made in exchange for them dropping the death penalty in Thompson’s homicide.
Nesbitt, who told sentencing Judge Knox McMahon that he graduated from high school and attended college, also was sentenced to 20 and 30 years on a series of related charges. Altogether, he was sentenced on seven crimes in Greenville, Forest Acres and Columbia.
Before McMahon imposed sentence, Nesbitt turned to the victims’ families and friends and said he was sorry. Thompson’s 24-year- old son, Jesse Thompson, was in the courtroom.
But Nesbitt qualified his actions in Thompson’s death.
“I didn’t drag her out (of her minivan at an ATM),” Nesbitt said. “I shot her. I admitted to it. I can’t take it back. You may call it a crime, but you weren’t there.”
Then he added, “I did go through five years, two months and 17 days in jail.
Nesbitt’s statements prompted the judge – a former police officer, sheriff’s deputy and prosecutor – to ask him again if he was pleading guilty.
“I’m guilty, your honor,” the defendant said.
In pre-sentence remarks before McMahon sentenced Nesbitt, Thompson’s friend, Kathy Bradley, said, “She was just getting her feet back up under her after the devastating end of her 25-year marriage. She was just beginning to find joy again.
“She told him she didn’t have any money, and even tried to show him proof with her ATM printout.”
Prosecutor Joanna McDuffie said Nesbitt first told Richland County detectives the gun went off when Thompson struck it.
Jesse Thompson did not address the judge during the 80-minute hearing, which was held in Fairfield County because that is where McMahon, who has presided over the case, was in court.
Lowe’s mother, Clarisa Neal, said he was her youngest son.
“I miss the sound of his voice when he called and said, ‘Hi, beautiful.’ I look at some of the young men that he grew up with, and I can only imagine what kind of man he could have grown up to be.”
Prosecutor McDuffie said Nesbitt and another man, both wearing masks, forced their way into Lowe’s apartment and killed him.
The case was unsolved for four years until Nesbitt admitted it under questioning after his arrest in Thompson’s slaying.
Much of the attack in Forest Acres was captured on the ATM video, McDuffie said. Authorities also found Nesbitt’s fingerprint on Thompson’s minivan.
The van’s alarm blared as Nesbitt drove it away, which prompted calls to police from other motorists.
Former Forest Acres officer Brian Hinson said that Nesbitt and others involved in the case had been looking for a bank customer to rob.
“They were kind if scoping out (other victims),” Hinson said.
The 8:30 a.m. crime and pursuit forced four nearby schools into lockdowns.
Nesbitt was identified shortly after police released photos because a caller recognized him as an applicant for a job at J.D. Byrider, McDuffie said.
Police have yet to find the murder weapon in either murder.
Maj. Stan Smith, a veteran Richland County investigator, described Thompson’s slaying this way: “The brutal nature of it, your honor, is one of the worst I’ve seen.”
During the hearing, Nesbitt showed little emotion, occasionally rocking from side to side in the defendant’s chair.
He spoke softly and answered questions clearly.
Nesbitt has 10 days to file any appeals, McMahon said.
Nesbitt was 37 when he was charged with shooting Thompson with a semiautomatic pistol while she was at a Bank of America ATM in Trenholm Plaza. She was shot from the driver’s door in the chest and stomach and died two hours later in an area hospital.
Nesbitt drove off in her white, 2001 Honda Odysssey van with her purse. Forest Acres police called the homicide a case of random violence.
Thompson, 55, remained conscious long enough to tell officers that she did not know the gunman. The van was found ditched on Cox Street off Two Notch Road.
Police said Nesbitt drove around Richland and Lexington counties with several people, who later also were arrested.
In 2009, Nesbitt had a pending aggravated assault charge from Anderson County. Authorities there accused Nesbitt of beating a 72-year-old man in the face and head with a telephone in 2007.
That allegation was just the tip of Nesbitt’s extensive criminal history.
His rapsheet dated to 1989 with convictions in Spartanburg and Anderson counties. Those convictions were for assault and battery, grand larceny, armed robbery and a weapons violation, according to State Law Enforcement Division records in January 2009.
He served 12 years of a 21-year sentence handed down in December 1992 on five counts of armed robbery in Spartanburg County, according to his rapsheet. While in prison, Nesbitt was disciplined at least 11 times for infractions such as sexual misconduct, loan sharking, gambling, possession of contraband and using profanity, according to Corrections Department records at the time.
Nesbitt was freed in May 2003.
Anderson County filed charges of assault and battery with intent to kill and strong-arm robbery in 2007. But those charges were dropped, according to court records. One of the charges involved shooting his girlfriend, who decided not to press the charge, said West Pelzer police chief Bernard Wilson, who said in 2009 that he investigated the case.
Thompson’s son and Bradley said two months ago they were frustrated by the delay in prosecuting Nesbitt and the lack of information about the case. The judge had issued a gag order that barred public discussion.
“It’s just sort of been dropped, like the case was completely forgotten,” said Jesse Thompson, who was 19 and a student at Presbyterian College when his mother was gunned down.
Said Bradley, “We need some accountability for her murder.”