News 12 at First at Five / Tuesday, Sep. 11, 2012
AIKEN, S.C. -- Ryan Doolittle, a 24-year-old Aiken High School grad, has pleaded guilty to the voluntary manslaughter of friend Vincent Brown.
Doolittle was originally charged with murder, but after a discussion with Brown's family, the Aiken County Solicitor's Office offered the voluntary manslaughter indictment to Doolittle instead.
Doolittle's legal council was considering a defense built around the Castle Doctrine, but in Tuesday's hearing, Judge Jack Early of the Second Circuit decided it was not admissible.
Doolittle was arrested on April 28 of this year after he shot and killed 23-year-old Brown at the Verandas on the Green apartments in Aiken.
Investigators say Doolittle shot his friend multiple times during an argument that turned physical. Investigators with the Aiken Department of Public Safety found eight shell casings.
During the plea hearing, multiple family members of both the victim and defendant showed up. Many of them were in tears as Doolittle's lawyer described the killing fueled by "drinking and guns." Judge Early asked a tearful Doolittle if he had anything to say about Brown, but he did not speak up.
"I don't know what is going on with young people and guns," said Judge Early. "I don't know where we're going to end up."
Family members of Brown approached the bench to describe their family member and friend while standing in front of a poster board bearing his image.
Brown was also an Aiken High grad. He worked at Home Depot and family members say no one ever had anything bad to say about him. He was involved in church and served as an usher. They say he wanted to be a police officer. His mother, Patricia, told News 12 he was inspired after the tragic loss of Aiken Public Safety Officer Scott Richardson.
"Such a precious, precious baby. Such a precious young man," she said tearfully to News 12.
Judge Early sentenced Doolittle to 20 years in prison after what he called some of the most powerful testimony he'd ever heard from Patricia.
After the sentence was read, Doolittle's father passed out. The Aiken County Sheriff's Office and the Aiken Department of Public Safety administered treatment and ultimately transported two of the family members to the hospital by ambulance. Most of the defendant's family was in hysterics.
"See, his family can visit him. All I can do is visit my son's grave," Patricia said.
Family members of Brown told News 12 that he and Doolittle were not friends. Patricia told News 12 that it was a tough decision to agree to the plea deal, but she says it's what her son would have wanted.
"He wouldn't want us to be in torment for the next six years in the process of this trial," she said.
Patricia says even though Doolittle's sentence is only 20 years, he'll forever be a prisoner.
"He's going to have to deal with God in the end, because God has the final judgement. And woe is him. Woe to his soul when that day comes," she said.