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Man convicted of murdering Jacksonville couple by burying them alive receives life sentence

Ultimately, Jurors found the murders of Reggie and Carol Sumner "cold, calculated and premeditated" but not "heinous, atrocious and cruel."

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The man convicted of murdering a Jacksonville couple by burying them alive will spend the rest of his life in prison.

The decision was delivered by a jury Thursday afternoon after three and a half hours of deliberations.

Alan Wade was being resentenced for the 2005 murders of Carol and Reggie Sumner, both 61 years old.

The jury weighed seven aggravating factors against 54 mitigating factors. The verdict had to be unanimous for Wade to receive the death penalty.  Ultimately, Jurors found the murders of Reggie and Carol Sumner "cold, calculated and premeditated" but not "heinous, atrocious and cruel."

Wade's original death penalty was thrown out because the verdict was not unanimous. Because his original conviction stands, the jury was only tasked with deciding what his punishment should be.

RELATED: 'Every day I'm tormented': Alan Wade apologizes to family of victims in buried alive case

Jurors heard closing arguments Thursday morning.

Prosecutor Alan Mizrahi told them, “death is the appropriate sentence.”

“Time has not dulled anything to do with the evil of these acts,” he said. “The shovels still have the dirt. Time does not heal all wounds."

Although there was considerable testimony about Wade and his codefendants digging “a grave” to bury the couple, Mizrahi said that was an inappropriate term. “Carol and Reggie Sumner are now in a grave, but in July 2005 they were not put in a grave. They were put in a death chamber. A hole. A pit in Southern Georgia, which was this defendant's murder weapon.”

He reminded jurors how the crime terrorized the two 61-year-olds, who married late in life. When placed, bound with duct tape, in the trunk of a car, and driven to a remote site, they loosed their restraints and hugged each other.

“These two lovers, who finally found each other, were aware that the exact same thing that was happening to them, was happening  to the person they loved most in the world.”

And he belittled the mitigation presented by the defense, including evidence of childhood sexual abuse and trauma, as “biased and paid for.”

“While defense paid for experts saying he is afraid of the dark…He is putting shovel after shovel of dirt over two human beings. Under cover of darkness he buried two disabled people in the dark forever.”

Wade's attorney said he would not attempt to excuse or minimize the crime. 

“No matter what your decision is after your decision Alan Wade will die in prison and will leave in a coffin," Blake Johnson said. He noted that when Wade committed the crime in 2005, he was “just 47 days past his 18th birthday".

“Forty-seven days prior, Alan Wade wouldn’t be eligible for the death penalty. Why? … The adolescent brain is different.”

Johnson told jurors that no matter how awful the crime, “The state is not asking you to execute the person he was 17 years ago. The person you will render a verdict on is … the person who sits with us in the court room with us and breathes our air.”

He continued, “A life sentence is a perfectly acceptable punishment for a crime of this magnitude, and none of you are ever required to put someone to death. You are not required… to kill Alan Wade."

He continued, “Alan Wade is not a monster. He is a human being. He cries. He cares. He deeply regrets what happened, and if he could take it back, he would. You are being asked to make a godlike decision of whether someone lives or dies, but without godlike wisdom. You are being asked to execute another human being. …If you have the slightest thought that in 10 years you may regret killing Alan Wade, then that is reason for sentencing him to life. You don’t have to kill Alan Wade...He’s a human being. He’s salvageable.”


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