August 7, 2013 9:57:19 AM
A Monroe County man will spend the rest of his life behind bars after pleading guilty to the robbery and murder of a Lowndes County business owner.
Sylvester Johnson, 26, of Aberdeen, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in Lowndes County Circuit Court Tuesday after he pleaded guilty to murdering Clarence Trimble in 2009.
Johnson was charged with murder in commission of a robbery and faced one count of capital murder. If Johnson had gone to trial and been convicted, he could have been sentenced to death.
Johnson, aka "Maine," is one of two men charged in Trimble's death. Cedric Whitley, also of Monroe County, is also charged with capital murder. Whitley is scheduled to go to trial in 2014.
Johnson, a high school dropout, was 22 at the time the crime. Whitley was 23.
Johnson and Whitley were accused of murdering Trimble in the early morning hours of Oct 24, 2009, at Big C's Game Room in Lowndes County, the victim's place of business.
According to court testimony, Johnson called a friend moments after the shooting and said he "had just sprayed Clarence Trimble while trying to rob him."
During Johnson's plea, Assistant District Attorney Lindsay Clemmons read a confession Johnson made to law enforcement after his arrest. Waiving his right to an attorney, Johnson told investigators that he and Whitley had been playing pool at the time of the shooting.
"We walked to the bar to get change," the confession stated. "When he (Trimble) opened the register, Cedric said, 'There it is.' I had a .22 in my pocket, I pulled the gun. I thought Clarence was reaching for a gun. I shot him in the back of the head. I ran around the bar, Clarence was still reaching, I shot him two times. I didn't aim, I just shot. I grabbed the money and ran and left and came back to Aberdeen. I hid the gun in the shed out back. I got $20. I bought groceries with it."
The .22 caliber weapon involved in the shooting was later discovered in a shed behind Johnson's Monroe County home. A shell casing matching the weapon was recovered at the murder scene.
As Clemmons read Johnson's confession, family members of the victim began to weep. Trimble's widow, sister and family members sat across the aisle from the family of Johnson and Whitley. Members of all three families could be seen wiping tears from their eyes.
Trimble is survived by his wife, Marilyn, and son, Clarence Jr. Clarence Jr. was 9 at the time of his father's murder.
In addition to owning Big C's Game Room, Trimble made his living selling tires at Big C's Tire Store.
Cynthia Trimble said her brother was a good man who is missed by his family every day.
"He was a family man, a hard worker," she said. "What they fail to realize is that Clarence had a wife and a son. They didn't think about any of that when they took his life. A lot of lives have been changed, hearts have been broken. When this happens, how can you deal with my nephew losing a dad? No man figure in his life, but he has his mom, aunts, uncles who loves him dearly. Clarence would want us to hold our heads up and keep going."
Cynthia Trimble said the murder was hard to understand.
"If they would have just asked for (the money), he would have gave it to them. They didn't have to do him like that."
Cynthia Trimble said with Johnson's plea, her family can begin to heal.
"This is some closure for the family," she said. "We've got one more to go, but God has been good."
As Trimble's family members cried and embraced in the hallway, Whitley's family members walked by. Whitley's father stopped for a moment and then nodded his head to Trimble's wife, Marilyn.
All of the families seemed to understand that with the murder of Clarence Trimble, multiple lives were changed in an instant.
"They're all just so young," Cynthia Trimble said. "God help us. They're just so young."
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.
1. Councilman Turner responds to AG opinion COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
3. Higgins: $150 million project eying Lowndes Port COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
4. Camp Rising Sun: A community treasure COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY