Admitted murderer is sentenced, apologizes to victim's family

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The man who pled guilty to killing Jessica Carpenter was given his sentence Monday, May 22 in Aiken County court.

Judge Diane Goodstein sentenced Robert Atkins to life in prison without the possibility of parole for murder and burglary and to 30 years for rape. Those sentences will run consecutively.

Atkins was also sentenced to 30 years for kidnapping and 5 years for possession of a weapon during the commission of a crime. Those sentences will be merged with the other sentences.

News 12's Domonique Benn was in court as the killer addressed the family.

"Mr. and Mrs. Carpenter and the rest of the Carpenter family, I know that the pain that I have caused you is unforgivable and inexcusable," Atkins said.

Convicted murderer Robert Atkins apologized to the Carpenter family for the 2000 murder of their 17-year-old daughter, Jessica Carpenter.

"We spent two years not knowing who did this," said Jessica's sister Amy Carpenter, "constantly looking at friends, co-workers, and neighbors with suspicious eyes."

Atkins, a deliveryman, asked to use the phone so that Jessica would let him into her Crosland Park home. Then, he attacked and killed her.

Jessica's family describes a roller coaster life until DNA matched the killer two years after the crime.

At that point Atkins was serving time in a Georgia prison for another crime.

"We're glad we've got DNA," said Charlie Carpenter, Jessica's father. "We know we got the right person that murdered Jessica. We know in our hearts tonight that we can lay down that the person that murdered Jessica is behind bars and we're never going to see him again and, as the judge said, he's going to come out feet first in a pine box."

But even though Atkins is an admitted killer, the family doesn't have closure.

"I share my wedding anniversary with the memory of my baby sister lying in a casket, and my birthday with the discovery of her killer," said Jessica's sister Heather Kirby.

"I will forever regret the pain that I caused you as a family," Atkins said. "I am truly sorry."

A life cut short...but not forgotten.

"A part of my life has been taken from me," said Judy Carpenter, Jessica's mother. "My life has been forever changed. But no one can take memories."

Prosecutors were seeking the death penalty, but the family agreed to a plea to prevent appeals and dragging the case along for many years.