THOMSON — A Thomson man was sentenced Friday to life in prison for the 2010 fatal shooting of his uncle.
Gregory Morris, 54, will not be eligible for parole for 30 years, prosecutors said.
He pleaded guilty but mentally ill to malice murder in the death of Pate Morris, 79, a musician and retired farmer.
The older man – a bluegrass and country music fiddle player – was found dead in the driveway of his home near White Oak Campground and Stagecoach roads the night of Dec. 19, 2010.
District Attorney Dennis Sanders said Gregory Morris not only held a grudge against his uncle, but also intended to kill three others who he felt had slighted him.
Morris told the court that he was not in his right mind at the time of the killing. He apologized to the victim’s family.
“There’s no excuse, and I wish I could change it,” Morris said.
Sanders said two state psychiatrists had found Morris was competent to stand trial next week.
Before the sentencing, Billie Morris, the victim’s widow, told the court her husband was aware Gregory Morris disliked him but was not aware of the depth of his anger.
“I don’t think that he ever thought that he would shoot him in cold blood in his own driveway,” she said.
Sanders said investigators focused on Morris after relatives described his feelings toward his uncle.
A roommate at Gregory Morris’ home told police that he owned a .38-caliber revolver, a 9 mm pistol and an AK-47. Morris and the guns were gone when police arrived.
Sanders said police issued a description of Gregory Morris’ car, which was found at Doctors Hospital in Augusta. Sanders said Morris had gone to the hospital for a toe problem. Sanders said police found Morris just five minutes before he was to be released from the hospital.
Only that fast action prevented more killings, Sanders said, because Morris later admitted his plans to slay three others.
Sanders said Morris planned to kill his cousin, Albert Morris, for not sending a sympathy card or attending funerals when Gregory Morris’ parents died in 2010.
Sanders said Morris also intended to kill Thomson businessman Charles Wallace and his son Chris after they bought an old house where he lived that they intended to raze.
“The fact that Charles Wallace was taking his homeplace was more than he could take,” Sanders said.
Morris had visited the Wallace and Son lawnmower shop for the purpose of killing both, Sanders said, but neither was there when he dropped by.
Toombs Circuit Chief Judge Roger Dunaway said the Department of Corrections will assess Morris’ mental state and decide whether to provide treatment.
Public defender Chip Wallace, who represented Morris, asked the judge to send him to a facility where he could receive psychiatric counseling. The Corrections Department has discretion to determine whether Morris receives treatment for mental illness.