Moments after Roger Grate was convicted of murder, his attorney noted even the minimum sentence equaled life behind bars for the 53-year-old killer.
“He understands he is about to go away for the rest of his life,” Defense Attorney Kia Wilson said.
Horry County Judge Steven John decided to sentence Grate to 35 years in prison on charges of murder and possession of a violent crime. That was slightly above the minimum of 30 years Grate faced and Wilson requested.
The jury convicted Grate of the two charges on Thursday following about two hours of deliberation. The sentencing ended the three-day trial over a killing on Christmas night in 2016.
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Prosecutors say Grate shot and killed a relative, Darrell Doctor, after an argument near Grate’s Loris-area home. Grate got upset with his step-son and Doctor intervened. That is when Grate shot Doctor, who was pronounced dead at the scene.
The defense claimed the shooting was in self-defense and Wilson said during sentencing that Grate maintained it was not a malicious killing. While they understood the jury’s verdict, Wilson said they did not agree with the decision.
Grate wore a white button-down shirt and khakis and showed no emotion as the jury delivered its verdict. He did not speak before his sentencing.
“He laments the loss of his nephew and the loss of life,” Wilson said.
Assistant Prosecutor Chris Helms briefly spoke before John sentenced Grate.
“Mr. Doctor did not have to die that night. He did not have to die at the hands of a person he trusted,” Helms said.
Doctor’s sister, April Crocco said Grate’s actions tore their family apart.
“He was a great man, even greater father, son, and brother even boyfriend,” Crocco said of her brother.
Crocco said her kids live in fear and don’t know whether they could be victims one day like Doctor. She added that her brother would laugh, but he would never get loud.
“My brother is not here, I wish he was, and it’s all because of him,” she said of Grate.