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Gang member sentenced to life in prison for student murder

December 19, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
A gang member convicted in the 2009 shooting death of honor student Melody Ross was sentenced to 155 years to life in prison.

Tom Vinson was sentenced to 155 years to life in prison. He told the court that he was remorseful and hoped that Ross's family and friends could forgive him, but he would understand if they did not.

"I want to apologize to the family and friends of Melody Ross," said Vinson. "I know apology is nothing compared to a loss of a friend or a family member, but I know how it feels. I never went to that game to hurt nobody. I went to that game to have fun like everybody else. Due to the life I was living it seemed like you can't have fun without there always being conflict."

Family and friends for both the victim and defendant were in court for the sentencing on Monday.

Vinson showed no emotion as the judge read the sentence. Some of his loved ones cried, and others walked out of the courtroom.

He was 16 years old when he shot into a crowd, killing 16-year-old Ross after her first homecoming football game at Wilson High School.

Ross was found slumped next to a car. Two rival gang members were found nearby shortly after with gunshot wounds, but survived. Prosecutors said the gang members were the intended targets.

Ross's father spoke in court saying that he and her mother will never get over the loss of their daughter.

"Every day I live in pain and hopelessness," said Vanarath Ross. "We have to give up some of the memories of our Melody to cope with her loss. We cry every time we remember or to see something that reminds us of her. We feel like taking our own life in order for us to see Melody again."

Ross was convicted in September of a number of charges, including murder, attempted murder and committing crimes to further a street gang.

The defense attorney plans to appeal the sentence. During the trial it was argued that Vinson was acting in self-defense and that rival gang members were trying to shoot him first.

Co-defendant Daivion Davis was already sentenced to eight years in a juvenile facility.

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