GREENSBORO — MacArthur Jackson spent Thanksgiving dinner 2006 discussing faith and the importance of respecting women with DeCarlo Rayshaun Bennett.
Less than a week later, Bennett choked Jackson’s daughter, Sherri, to death.
Her murder, in fact, came on the same day Bennett appeared in court to face domestic violence charges for choking her just a few weeks earlier, prosecutors said Monday at Bennett’s sentencing for second-degree murder.
Bennett, 29, of Greensboro received a minimum 13 years in prison as part of a plea deal for telling authorities where he buried Jackson. He had faced life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder.
Authorities searched wooded lots and area lakes to no avail after Jackson’s disappearance, prosecutor Howard Neumann said. The only one who knew where Jackson was buried was the person who killed her, he said.
Bennett had buried Jackson in a makeshift grave — about 4 feet deep — in the backyard of his mother’s Greensboro home.
Jackson’s family and friends wondered for 17 months what had happened to her until Bennett struck the plea deal on June 26.
On Monday, they described the agony of losing Jackson, who was 27 when she disappeared Nov. 29, 2006.
The best way to describe the loss is having a shadow following you, said Shanece Belvin, Jackson’s older sister.
“That shadow never goes away,” she told Judge Edwin G. Wilson Jr. “It doesn’t disappear when I’m asleep. It doesn’t disappear when I’m awake. ... This is a very heavy shadow.”
Clara Jackson clutched a framed picture of her daughter as she spoke.
“I look at the sunshine and I can see her smile,” she said. “There’s nothing and no words to say how much I miss her.”
Bennett sat through most of the hearing staring straight ahead. His attorney read two letters that Bennett had written, including one addressed to the Jacksons. He said he didn’t plan to kill Jackson, that her death was an accident.
“I sincerely apologize with all my heart,” Bennett wrote.
He turned his head toward MacArthur Jackson as he spoke. Jackson offered his forgiveness to the man who killed his daughter.
“Forgiving doesn’t mean you don’t expect punishment,” he said later. And he disagreed that his daughter’s death was an accident.
“It’s not like pulling a gun,” he said. “You had to hold them awhile.”
Bennett ducked his head when Sherri Jackson’s friends railed at him.
“Who do you think you are to be squeezing the life away of another person?” Torri Johnson asked.
She then read a poem that she had written for Jackson. In it, she apologizes for not stopping Jackson’s killer and asks her friend to smile, laugh and dance wherever she is.
“I hope you spin around in full circles. I hope you dance today because you are no longer cold and alone,” Johnson read.
“You are free. You are free. You are so free to dance Sherri, you have found peace.”
Contact Jennifer Fernandez at 373-7064 or jennifer.fernandez