Murder victim Melissa Atkin’s family can now “rest in peace” after jurors convicted the man who killed her, her brother said Thursday.
“She’s free, my sister is free,” said Atkin’s brother, Ken, who is a La Vergne Police officer.
Murder victim Melissa Atkin's family can now "rest in peace" after jurors convicted the man who killed her, her brother said Thursday. "She's free, my sister is free," said Atkin's brother, Ken, who is a La Vergne Police officer. A Circuit Court jury of three men and nine women deliberated more than two hours before convicting Reynolds of first-degree murder of Atkin, 36, the mother of his child. The defendant showed little emotion. Defense attorney Joe Brandon collapsed in his chair. $element(flashss,slideshow,30,Nasc)$ Reynolds fatally shot Atkin four times Dec. 16 at her Grassland Avenue home off in the Florence community. At the time of her murder, they were embroiled in a bitter custody battle over their 5-year-old son, Lucas. Circuit Court Judge Don Ash imposed the life sentence on Reynolds, 38, of Smyrna. "Larry Scott Reynolds, I hereby sentence you to the state penitentiary for the balance of your life," Ash said. He will be eligible for parole after serving 51 years. Reynolds' mother sobbed as she left the courtroom. Ken Atkin said his family can now "rest in peace. The system I've been working for for 23 years is worthwhile," Atkin said. Atkin's father, Douglas, said, "God has prevailed over evil." He planned to return home to tell his grandson, Lucas, he would never see his father again. "My heart goes out to the Reynolds family but he's still breathing and she isn't," Douglas Atkin said. Mother Linda Atkin said Lucas told her after his mother died, "When somebody dies, everything changes" and he was right. District Attorney William Whitesell said he was pleased with the verdict and appreciated the jury's hard work. "I appreciate the work Paul Newman (assistant district attorney), (intern) Victoria Greer and (sheriff's detectives) Ralph Mayercik and Troy Hooker put into it," Whitesell said. Brandon said the entire case was tragic for both the Atkins and Reynolds families, especially Lucas. "There were no winners that walked out of there today," Brandon said. During closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Paul Newman told jurors to remember the way Atkin was shot execution style with her hands bound behind her. "There's only one person who had the means, motive and opportunity," Newman said. Atkin's mother, Linda, rested her hand on her husband, Doug's neck, while Reynolds' son, Tanner Long, put his arm around Reynolds' mother. Reynolds sobbed to girlfriend Eve Barger, "I just killed Melissa," Newman said, adding he told her before Atkin's body was found. "There was only one way he knew," Newman said, "He was the one who did it." But Brandon countered detectives only looked at Reynolds, saying his client was innocent. Brandon reminded jurors Tennessee Bureau of Investigation experts didn't locate one piece of evidence at the crime scene that linked to Reynolds. Also, the defense attorney said Detective Ralph Mayercik didn't obtain a gunshot residue test on Reynolds and didn't ask for his clothes or shoes. "He did a cursory, hurried investigation in this case," Brandon said. Brandon discussed Barger's testimony, saying she gave a statement to detectives after they threatened to arrest her. He questioned Barger's love for Reynolds because she was involved with other men in her life. Reynolds' son, Tanner, testified Reynolds stayed at Barger's house all night because they were in the same room, the defense attorney said. Brandon addressed Atkin's family. "We all want to give justice to those folks on the front row," Brandon said. "They deserve it." But Reynolds is innocent, he said. Return a verdict of not guilty. Whitesell said his daughter wrote in a note to him Wednesday morning, "Go with what you know." He urged jurors to "go with what you know." Whitesell described Reynolds as a man who wanted to control Atkin so she wouldn't take his child away. "He took that witness stand to try to control you," Whitesell told jurors. The prosecutor addressed the lack of physical evidence and Mayercik's investigation. "Ralph Mayercik did not do a perfect investigation and I'm sure he will agree," Whitesell said, adding it was popular for the defense to talk about "sloppy investigations." But a real investigation is not like "CSI" where evidence is easily available. Whitesell and Mayercik don't know if the killer wore gloves because they weren't there when Atkin was killed. "I bet that guy on 'CSI' doesn't know either," Whitesell said. Whitesell focused on the handgun used to kill Atkin. Detective Troy Hooker was able to determine it was a .32-caliber Llama handgun once owned by Barger's former husband. The ammunition found in the Barger's gun bag was vintage bullets last manufactured in 1977. The bullets matched the three found in Atkin's head and in her mattress and two found in Barger's car. Reynolds was involved in a bitter custody battle with Atkin and almost hated her. He told Barger he killed her. After her death, he went to Texas and avoided detectives. He shot her because he knew he would lose custody of his son in court and wanted to eliminate Atkin who was a problem. "Scott Reynolds was going to lose in court and he chose murder to solve his problem," Whitesell said.