Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Jury Seeks 40 Year Prison Term for Bondsman's Murder

Bad timing cost James E. Carr seven years of freedom.

A Richmond jury recommended yesterday that Carr serve 40 years in prison for first-degree murder and felonious use of a firearm in the death of bail bondsman James W. Woolfolk III.

Minutes before the jury signaled that it had reached a decision on the sentence in its second day of deliberations, Carr's defense attorney and Richmond prosecutors had reached a plea agreement that would have given him 33 years in prison.

"I really have no reason to accept the plea agreement," Circuit Judge Beverly W. Snukals told the attorneys before calling in the jury to render its verdict.

Snukals will sentence Carr on Nov. 7, but members of Woolfolk's family left court yesterday satisfied with the jury's decision. The jury convicted Carr of first-degree murder on Tuesday.

"Though nothing will bring him back, this sure helps," said Theresa Godbold, niece of the 39-year-old bail bondsman, who was killed March 6 in South Richmond while trying to arrest Carr, 20, for skipping court on a felony drug charge.

James Woolfolk was the first bail bondsman killed in Virginia while on duty in recent memory. He was unarmed when he was shot three times from behind after finding Carr hiding in a bedroom closet at 2313 Joplin Ave.

"I shot him three times in the back. . . . I did a cowardly act," Carr confessed Tuesday evening during testimony on the sentencing.

Prosecutors said Carr had a simple reason for shooting Woolfolk: "He just did not want to go back to jail," said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill, who called the shooting "a cold-blooded execution."

Carr's stepfather, Michael Morris, testified that Woolfolk had turned his back and started toward the living room when he was shot. "He said, 'All right, Jimmy, you know what this is. Let's go.'" Woolfolk's mother, Theresa Woolfolk, said the family was satisfied with the recommended sentence. "We hope the best for James Carr and his family," she said.

Defense attorney Dean C. Marcus said Carr had shown remorse from the beginning for killing Woolfolk. "It's been eating him up," Marcus said after the jury rendered its recommendation.

But Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Matthew P. Geary responded, "If Mr. Carr was truly remorseful for what he did, he would have spared his family and the victim's family the agony of trying this case."

Carr still faces charges in Richmond of illegal possession of a firearm by a felon, felony drug possession, and failure to appear in court -- the charge that brought Woolfolk to the house where he died. He also faces a charge that he violated his probation on a robbery charge in Henrico County, where he had a suspended sentence of 10 years.

Geary said his office is working with Henrico to revoke the suspension and reinstate the full sentence.

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