By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor
As Jerry Wayne Fuller was escorted by deputies from the Roosevelt County district courtroom Wednesday to begin a 127-year double murder sentence, he left with a new Bible clutched in his shackled hands and with the forgiveness of at least some of the victims’ family.
After hearing victim impact statements from family and friends of Odis and Doris Newman, and giving Fuller, 34, the chance to address the court, Judge Stephen Quinn approved a plea agreement signed in October by Fuller that spared him from facing the death penalty.
Fuller would have to live well past the age of 100 to be eligible for parole.
Fuller, the Newmans’ nephew, kidnapped, beat and burned the elderly Portales couple in the trunk of their car in March 2005. Their bodies were found in the car on a rural road east of Portales.
Co-defendant Stanley Bedford, 43, faces the death penalty in a trial this spring.
In her victims’ impact statement, Vickie Dixon, daughter of Odis and Doris Newman, said her life will never be the same.
Showing a newspaper clipping, Vickie Dixon said she found Fuller’s wedding photos in her parents’ Bible after they were killed.
“Do you think they prayed for you?” she asked Fuller.
Vickie Dixon asked if her parents had questioned why he was doing what he was doing on the night of the murder.
“You robbed me of the chance to take care of them like they took care of me when I was little,” she said.
“Jerry Wayne Fuller, I forgive you, but I will never forget what you did,” she said.
In ending her statement, she gave Jerry Fuller a Bible, saying she hoped it would help him find peace with what he had done.
Fuller’s eyes filled with tears and he turned to face her as Vickie Dixon spoke. But later during other victims’ statements he kept his eyes down on the table in front of him.
When Jerry Fuller addressed the court, his statement was brief but remorseful.
“There are no right words, nothing I can do to fix the pain,” Jerry Fuller said. “I am sorry to the Dixon family and to mine for the pain I’ve caused.
There won’t be a day goes by that I won’t wish that I was the person in that burnt car.”
Fuller’s family blamed the tragedy on drugs.
Through sobs, Fuller’s mother, Donna Switzer, told the Newman family she was sorry and said that it wasn’t her son who had committed the crime but the drugs.
“I don’t understand why he did what he did,” Switzer said. “I’ll never understand, but I do love my son.”
Fuller’s sister Diana Fuller also blamed drugs and a rough upbringing for her brother’s problems.
“There are many people who will say drugs can’t be to blame,” Diana Fuller said. “Anyone who doubts it should look at his appearance now (compared to when he was arrested).
She said she was shocked at her brother’s appearance after he was arrested and says he has gained over 100 pounds since that time.
Diana Fuller suggested that her brother’s remorse, along with his drug problem and lack of criminal record should have been taken into account in his sentencing.
Ninth Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler said Fuller’s sentence was fair.
“Methamphetamine is apparent all over this case,” Chandler said. “I can tell the court we’re aware of the problem … Meth is not an excuse for what happened. Odis and Doris Newman didn’t have a criminal record and their sentence wasn’t fair.”
The district attorney did say the crime may have been precipitated by a methamphetamine high and may have been related to a $150 debt for drugs that Fuller owed Bedford.
Other family members and friends of the couple offered statements during the sentencing hearing. None were more emotional than one offered by the Newman’s only granddaughter, Dana Dixon.
“Jerry, I’ve waited almost two years to tell you how much I hate you,” Dana Dixon said. “How much I wish someone would tie you up with duct tape and beat the hell out of you.”
The adult granddaughter said she thinks of all the good times fishing and learning to dance on Odis’ feet when she was little.
“We would dance all night,” she reflected. “Just as I get them in mind that way I get an image of their burnt bodies.”