After a Hennepin County jury convicted him of first-degree murder in two killings last summer, 17-year-old Brian Flowers on Tuesday took his chance to speak in court for the first time, turning in his chair and looking directly at the family of his victims in the front row, his eyes swollen, red and wet from crying.
"I just want to say I'm sorry that I did not stop what happened in that house. I'm just sorry, that's all," Flowers said.
Flowers' friend Stafon Thompson was convicted last month and sentenced to life in prison for the killings of 35-year-old Katricia Daniels and her 10-year-old son, Robert Shepard, in their duplex in Minneapolis' Kingfield neighborhood in June.
District Judge Mark Wernick gave Flowers an identical sentence on Tuesday. Neither man will be released, although both convictions are automatically appealed.
The jury reached a verdict after hearing closing arguments Tuesday morning and deliberating throughout the afternoon. Both Flowers and his mother sobbed and wailed as the verdicts were read and throughout the victim-impact statements and sentencing that followed.
Joseph Williams, the father of Daniels' toddler daughter who was left alive in the house, spoke before sentencing, addressing Flowers' family. "I respected your son. He came to the house and everything. He's not a bad fellow. I can't put no bad words on him," Williams said. "But he shouldn't have been there."
Williams said his young daughter sometimes wanders the house scared and he finds her hiding in a closet.
"Stay strong," he said to the Flowers family. "I want you all to continue praying for me."
Shepard's father, Robert Shepard Sr., said he wasn't there for his son, but now he wants to work to end what he called senseless black-on-black crime. "We learn from our mistakes. I just hope that God have mercy on your soul," Shepard said.
Flowers' uncle Tim Jackson also spoke, addressing the victims' family members. "Our prayers have been with you from Day 1. We understand exactly how you feel. Our nephew, Brian's brother, was murdered and taken from us. So we have been there," Jackson said.
Daniels bled to death on her bathroom floor from nearly 200 stab wounds, her bloody footprint on the back of the door from when she tried to barricade herself in the room. Her son died face down on a bedroom floor, his feet tangled in bed sheets, both jugular veins severed and marks on his throat from having a TV smashed against him.
Flowers' lawyer Andy Small argued in his closing argument that the teen was at the Daniels' home that night because he needed a place to stay, not because he wanted to kill or rob them, and that Thompson attacked Daniels without provocation.
"Brian wasn't man enough. Brian wasn't smart enough to say, 'I'm out of here. I'm going to the cops.' But that is not enough to say he aided and abetted and assisted," Small said.
Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Theresa White said in her argument that three bloody knives, a bloody golf club and a smashed television used in the attacks showed too much damage for one killer. "One person only has two hands. You're not wielding a knife in each hand and a golf club with your foot," she said.
White also noted the extensive footprints in blood throughout the scene, some in stocking feet and others matching a Nike Air Force One sneaker. "That's more than one person, that's two people," she said.
White said the sneakers were size 11, the same as Flowers' shoe size. She noted that those bloody prints were found in two bedrooms, the bathroom, and to and from the knife block in the kitchen. She also said Shepard's blood was found on top of the sneakers.
"He was holding Robert Shepard when Stafon Thompson was killing and torturing him or he was doing the killing," she said.
But Small said only a drop of blood was on Flowers' shoes -- nowhere else on him. Thompson's clothes were covered in blood.
Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747