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Killer of Terhune Road couple to serve two life sentences, plus 5 years

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"It's obvious this was something that you planned ... You could have stopped at any time," Floyd County Superior Court Judge J. Bryant Durham said Tuesday in passing sentence.

"If ever there was a case for life without parole, this is it," he added.

Abbott was convicted in April of murdering his elderly neighbors James and Myra Reeves after forcing Myra Reeves to write him a $7,500 check. Prosecutors said he wanted the money to get his girlfriend's car out of hock.

James "Jimmy" Reeves was 69 when a friend, stopping by the rural homestead to give them a Norman Rockwell calendar, found him riddled with gunshot wounds on the kitchen floor. Myra Reeves, 71, was in a back bedroom, dead of a shotgun blast to her head.

Several of the Reeves' relatives read statements before the sentencing, asking for the maximum penalty allowed by law.

"Jimmy was more than my uncle, he was my best friend," Brian Reeves said. "He served his country in Vietnam and survived that, only to come home and die in such a violent manner."

Myra Reeves' daughter, Shannon Lambert, told Durham the couple was deeply loved and loving. She still has nightmares about the last minutes of her mother's and stepfather's lives, she said, and the family home where she grew up now holds only memories of their deaths.

"I'm tortured by the thoughts ... I don't know if Jimmy had to lay there and hear what my mother was going through," Lambert said.

Another daughter, Christi Lambert, called the murders "surreal," saying the couple had "no enemies, no ill-dealings with anyone," and she bemoaned the fact that she would never have an opportunity to take care of them as they grew older.

"This was pure evil in every form," said Vicki Lee, sister of Myra Lambert.

Lee spoke of how they lost their parents and a brother in quick succession before Abbott murdered her sister and brother-in-law. The others, she said, were not alone when they died.

"We sat at their beds, we held their hands, they died peacefully," Lee said, choking back tears to continue.

"Myra and Jimmy were alone, frightened, without family, separated and unable to comfort each other," she said. "What were they forced to endure? I will live with that question the rest of my life. I will not ask you to show (Abbott) mercy. He showed none to them."

Abbott's attorney, Wade Hoyt IV, presented no one to speak in his client's defense — letting Durham's pre-sentence review stand on its own.

Assistant District Attorney Natalee Staats asked for consecutive sentences of life without parole on the two murder charges, which means one served after the other instead of at the same time.

"I know it seems like it won't make any difference, but we think it's the most appropriate sentence in this case," Staats said.

Durham agreed, and added another 5 years after that — on a charge of possessing a weapon during the commission of a crime. Abbott also was sentenced to concurrent terms totaling 50 years on charges of burglary, armed robbery and theft by deceiving.

District Attorney Leigh Patterson said consecutive life-without-parole sentences are not common but there are some instances in Georgia.

"These were two dear, sweet people that deserved to live out their lives in peace," Patterson said. "(Abbott) doesn't ever need to see the light of day. He is irredeemable."