GREENSBORO — Two men standing on different sides of a homicide received separate measures of closure Thursday.
DeCarlo Rayshaun Bennett received his before a judge. McArthur Jackson received his standing in the blazing sun while the remains he believes are his daughter’s were found in a makeshift grave.
Bennett, charged with first-degree murder in the death of his former girlfriend, Sherri Jackson, was expected to go on trial July 7. Instead, he pleaded guilty Thursday to second-degree murder. He faces a maximum sentence of 13 to 16 years in prision. As part of the plea deal, Bennett agreed to tell police where the body was buried.
While Bennett was in court, Greensboro police were digging at 2305 Pine Meadows Court in the backyard of the house where Bennett once lived.
McArthur Jackson, Sherri Jackson’s father, was there when police found the remains. Jackson said the discovery was a relief.
“This is probably the best ending we could have to a bad beginning,” Jackson said. “We have something we can take back home and that means a lot to us.”
There has been no funeral for Jackson, who disappeared Nov. 29, 2006 at the age of 27. Weeks later, Bennett was charged with first-degree murder in her death after police found “a conglomeration of evidence” pointing to his involvement. The two had dated, but friends said Thursday that Jackson was trying to break up with Bennett when she disappeared.
Bennett was taken into custody and handcuffed after the judge read the terms of Bennett’s plea agreement. It called for the state not to prosecute Bennett for first-degree murder nor seek any aggravating factors at his sentencing.
In exchange, Bennett told police where to find Jackson’s body, said Assistant District Attorney Howard Neumann.
“The only one who knew where that was was the person who killed her or at least who buried her,” Neumann said.
About 1 p.m. Thursday, police found human remains behind the house at 2305 Pine Meadows Court. Police had been digging behind the house since 7 a.m., Thursday with shovels and a backhoe.
Capt. Janice Rogers said the police department got a tip Wednesday that they would find Jackson’s body there. The remains were sent to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Chapel Hill today for positive identification, Rogers said.
Reading the terms and conditions of Bennett’s plea, Judge James Webb asked Bennett if all of the information he had given police in the past several days is true. Bennett said it was.
In a quiet voice, with his head bowed, Bennett replied, “yes sir,” or “no sir” to all of the terms and conditions of his plea.
Bennett, 29, wore a navy blue suit and sat quietly talking with his attorney before the hearing. He was clean-shaven and had his hair cut short.
Some of Sherri Jackson’s friends took little comfort from Bennett’s admission of guilt, a year and a half after Jackson vanished and days before some expected to testify against him in court.
“She deserves more justice than for him to come to court, liberated, and just say he was guilty,” said Kai Moumouni outside the courtroom. Bennett’s decision to plead guilty “robs us of the chance to tell our side to the judge,” she said.
Moumouni was furious that Bennett had been free on bond while Sherri Jackson’s loved ones suffered her loss.
Other friends tried to comfort Moumouni while dealing with their own anger and grief.
“Seeing her sister (in the courtroom) just brought her back to life,” said Torri Johnson, 20, of Greensboro.
But McArthur Jackson said he was happy with the day’s events.
“I don’t hate DeCarlo, I really feel sorry for him,” Jackson said.
“I hate what he did, but I forgive him,” Jackson said. “I can have peace with God right now.”