Donnie Forte' found guilty of murder, victims sister speaks - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Donnie Forte' found guilty of murder, victim's sister speaks

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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

It was surveillance footage that caught Donnie Forte running away from the crime scene that won the case, Senior Assistant District Attorney Don Kelly proclaimed after winning.

Unlike four of the five suspects accused of taking Reverend Blanchard Thomas' life,  Donnie Forte' took his chances by going to trial and not seeking a plea deal.

The jury deliberated for less than two hours before coming back with a verdict of guilty.

"We feel very good about the jury verdict and of course we feel horrible that this ever happened in the first place," Kelly said.

Forte', 55, was sentenced to two life sentences without parole.

According to Kelly Forte is a drug addict and career criminal that spent nearly two decades behind bars for previous crimes.

"He had a horrible record one of the worst I've ever seen which is why it was a mandatory life without parole sentence" stated Kelly.

Thomas' sister addressed the court saying her brother loved the Lord and people. She said he died following God's word.

"He served the Lord. He would say, love thy neighbor and have compassion on one another. He lost his life having that love and compassion," Joan Gibson said.

Donnie Forte' sat quietly with his head down. He didn't address the court. The family sobbed quietly after the verdict was read.

Judge Rumer offered to wait to sentence Forte' so that his family could be present, he declined the offer.

Forte's attorney says they do plan to appeal the decision.

Kelly said he was happy the state is able to bring justice and some sort of closure to the family.

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