A man who killed his friend without provocation last year in Stafford County was ordered Tuesday to serve 12 years and nine months in prison.
George R. Batts Jr., 40, of Richlands, North Carolina, shot 47-year-old Ely P. Grimes outside an industrial park building on International Parkway in southern Stafford on Jan. 21, 2021. Batts and Grimes were members of the Tuckahoe Motorcycle Club and had come from North Carolina to attend an event, court records show.
Batts previously pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in Stafford Circuit Court. Prosecutor Greg Holt and defense attorney Joe Flood worked out a deal in which other charges were dropped and it was agreed that Batts would receive an active prison sentence of no more than 17 years.
At the end of a sentencing hearing Tuesday that lasted about four and a half hours, Judge Michael Levy sentenced Batts to a total of 20 years with seven years and three months suspended. Batts’ mental health issues were the primary focus of his defense.
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According to the evidence, Batts and Grimes were close friends who seemed to be getting along that weekend. Out of the blue, court records indicate, Batts shot Grimes multiple times in the torso and the arm. Before being rushed to the hospital, Grimes told another club member that he and Batts were “bull——ing” when Batts “snapped” for no apparent reason.
The club member reported that Batts was walking around saying “just shoot me” following the shooting; tests showed that Batts had illegal drugs and alcohol in his system at the time.
Batts himself was shot several times by responding deputies after he pointed his weapon toward them. He was seriously injured.
Rescue workers were able to get Grimes to a hospital, where he died a couple of days later.
The judge heard emotional testimony Tuesday from several of Grimes’ family members, including his mother. His wife, Tracy Grimes, said the impact of her husband’s death has greatly affected her and others.
“The devastation is unbearable beyond words,” she said. “And I’m still unclear why this happened.”
The key defense witness Tuesday was clinical psychologist Sara Boyd, who testified for a couple of hours about a number of untreated mental health issues she believes Batts was suffering from, including post traumatic stress disorder, paranoia and traumatic brain injuries stemming from multiple concussions.
Flood claimed the pandemic exacerbated his issues and that he was immediately remorseful for the unprovoked slaying. Flood asked the judge to limit Batts’ active sentence to seven years.
Holt said that many factors, including Batts’ lack of any prior criminal record and his service in the Air Force, had already been taken into account when he agreed to the 17-year maximum active sentence. Holt said Batts’ remorse “pales in comparison” to the grief he caused, and asked the judge to give him the full 17 years.
Just before Levy pronounced judgement, Batts made an emotional statement in which he again expressed remorse and called Grimes a terrific friend who he and others could always count on.
“I’m sorry for taking this amazing man from you,” Batts said with his voice cracking. “I’m overwhelmed by the sadness I’ve caused . . . his memory will be my inspiration.”