The sentencing of a man charged in a 2011 motel homicide became a tearful referendum Friday on the dangers of methamphetamine.
Christopher Price received 30 years in prison from Superior Court Judge James Blanchard in exchange for a guilty plea to the lesser charges of armed robbery and false imprisonment.
He had been indicted for murder as an accomplice to the Jan. 17 killing of Dustin Lunsford, 36, who was found dead with his hands and feet bound at Savannah Suites on Wrightsboro Road.
The man accused of strangling Lunsford, Billy Lee Smith, is serving life in prison after previously pleading guilty to murder and false imprisonment.
Blanchard accepted the plea “reluctantly” but trusted Assistant District Attorney Parks White’s assessment that shaky testimony at trial might end in an acquittal.
“This is a perfect example of what happens when people become involved in the drug trade and they try to overpower drug dealers,” Blanchard said.
White said Lunsford’s death started as a plan to rob him of his cash and his stash of methamphetamine. The one independent witness was Lunsford’s girlfriend, but she gave three versions of what happened.
The main thread of her statements was that Price and Smith bound Lunsford and beat him with a metal baton that eventually broke from the force of their beating. Smith strangled Lunsford to make him stop screaming, White said.
“My daddy wasn’t a saint, but he didn’t deserve to be murdered,” Lunsford’s oldest daughter, Brooke Lunsford, 17, said through tears.
Price’s attorney, Lyndsey Hix, said her client’s role in the killing was completely out of character. He became “beholden” to his meth addiction and abandoned his child and his family in the six months leading up to the homicide, Hix said.
“That addiction is what led to the death of Dustin Lunsford,” Hix said.
Price apologized to Lunsford’s family, but echoed his lawyer’s statement.
“It was not intentional what happened, but (meth) causes people to do things ... they would not otherwise do,” he said.