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Lynchburg murder conviction provides closure for family of Brian Patterson

Patterson was shot and killed February 19, 2011, during a party at Lynchburg's Fraternal Order of Police Lodge

February 16, 2012|Tim Saunders | Reporter/Lynchburg Bureau Chief

LYNCHBURG, Va. — A Lynchburg man could spend the next 31 years in prison for killing a former classmate. That's the sentence recommended by the jury who convicted Gregory Kittrell of second degree murder Thursday.

He killed Heritage High School classmate, Brian Patterson. Kittrell says he shot Patterson in self defense during an argument.

The victim's family says they're satisfied with the jury's recommendation even though it's not the maximum sentence.

"The 19th is coming up," said Sophia Johnson, Patterson's grandmother.  "That's when it's going to be hard, because that's when he died."

Patterson was shot and killed February 19, 2011, during a party at Lynchburg's Fraternal Order of Police Lodge.

Kittrell pulled out a 9mm handgun and fired five shots, hitting and killing Patterson.

"I miss him a lot," Johnson said of her grandson.  "His face, his smile, everything."

Patterson was taking time off from college when he died.  He'd been playing football at West Virginia Tech.

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"He was going back to college, but he never did make it back," Johnson said.

During his trial this week, Kittrell claimed last year's shooting was an act of self defense.

"Unless you can put yourself in his mind and in his shoes, none of us can know what it's like to be in a situation like that," said Kittrell's defense attorney, Bill Quillian.  "It's impossible to do."

Before learning his punishment Thursday, Kittrell apologized to Patterson's family and his own.

Both sides are on good terms with each other.  Johnson was friends with Kittrell's mother before the murder.

"I feel sorry for her, because she can't help what her son did," said Johnson. "I'm just glad it's over with."

Kittrell and Patterson's mothers hugged in the courtroom after the sentence was handed down.  Patterson told Kittrell's mom that she wished the best for her son; an unusual sign of unity after tragedy.

Kittrell will be formally sentenced in April.

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