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Murderer will spend life in prison

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A 23-year-old convicted murderer showed no reaction when jurors decided Tuesday he will spend his life in prison.

Aldrick Lillard of Smyrna was convicted Friday of murdering Randy Betts, 49, of Smyrna, during a burglary and robbery at his home Dec. 20, 2005. In videotaped statements, Lillard maintained he didn't pull the trigger.

Co-defendant Ronallen Hardy, of Nashville, is facing trial in the same case.

Judge Don Harris sentenced Lillard to the life term in prison without the possibility of parole after eight women and four men jurors reached that verdict. Under Tennessee law, jurors decide the sentence in first-degree murder cases.

Harris will sentence Lillard on charges of robbery, burglary and conspiracy with Hardy during a hearing Aug. 20.

During the sentencing hearing, witness Brenda Hickman testified for prosecutors she and her ex-boyfriend, Darren J. Yeager, lived with Betts from March to April 2005.

"He was like a father to me," Hickman said, adding Betts allowed her three young sons to live in his house as well.

Betts showed Yeager and Hickman his collection of knives and guns. Yeager used one of the knives to kill Tony "Butch" Akins, of East Jefferson Pike in La Vergne. After the murder, Yeager and Hickman returned to Betts' home. When Betts learned about the murder and description of suspects, he notified La Vergne Police Department, at which point the couple was arrested at the home.

During a court hearing, Betts testified against Yeager and Hickman.

Yeager introduced Lillard to Hickman in October 2004. He stayed with the couple several times during the next few months.

Hickman was later convicted of helping in Akins' death. Yeager is serving an eight-year sentence for voluntary manslaughter.

Sheriff's Detention Sgt. Eldon Currey testified Yeager and Lillard shared the same pod and were housed next to each other in November 2005.

Lillard didn't offer any defense in the sentencing.

During closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Trevor Lynch said Lillard didn't have money but had a friend in jail who told him about Betts' weapons for the robbery.

Defense attorney Joe Brandon told jurors a sentence of 51 years for life with the possibility of parole is a death sentence. He asked jurors to impose the life sentence with the possibility of parole.

Lynch said Lillard chose to murder Betts, rather than let him live the rest of his life.

"He should spend the rest of his life in a penitentiary," Lynch said.

Jurors deliberated less than two hours before setting the life in prison sentence.

Brandon said he and co-defense attorney Tim Hogan worked on the case more than 1-1/2 years. Lillard maintained he did not pulled the trigger.

Hogan agreed, saying, "I firmly believe he didn't. He's been very consistent about this."

Brandon expressed sympathy to Betts' family. He also thanked the jurors for their attention to the case.

Lynch said the facts in the case were clear with an appropriate verdict of life in prison.

"It was a justified verdict," Lynch said.

Betts' former wife, his sister, daughter and son attended the trial.

"The family was very pleased with the outcome," Lynch said. "I'm glad we were able to do something for them."
Read more from:
Aldrick Lillard, Brenda Hickman, Circuit Court, Darren Yeager, Homicide, La Vergne, Randy Betts, Ronallen Hardy, Smyrna
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