After heart-wrenching testimony Thursday in Muscogee Superior Court, Lonnie Jacob Ragan was sentenced to life without parole in the 2011 shotgun slaying of Holly Laurel Hearn.
Ragan was convicted of two counts of murder, three counts of aggravated assault, possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Besides giving Ragan life for the murder and assault on Holly Hearn, Judge Gil McBride sentenced him to another 20 years for aggravated assault on Hearn’s husband Ryan Hearn, 20 more years for aggravated assault for pointing a shotgun at the Hearns’ 4-year-old son, and an additional five years each for using a firearm to commit a crime and being a convicted felon with a firearm.
The sentencing was preceded by emotional testimony from Holly Hearn’s family and from Ragan’s mother.
Ryan Hearn said he still is plagued by nightmares of the day the woman he’d loved since high school was gunned down in front of him. “I ask myself what I could or should have done to change the outcome,” he said.
His children suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder because of what they witnessed, and insurance won’t pay for their therapy, he said. They repeatedly check the door locks each night to make sure their home is secure, he added.
“They are still terrified someone will come in and harm us,” he said.
Angela Thoman, Holly Hearn’s sister, called her sibling’s death a “preventable tragedy” the family will never forget, because it comes to mind every Mother’s Day and Christmas, and every time one of Holly Hearn’s children celebrates a birthday.
Their memories of the day she died may never fade, she said: “These horrific images plague us still.”
Yet Ragan seems unaffected by what he did, she said: “He is without remorse and lacks fear of consequences.”
Also addressing the court was Kevin Moeller of Dayton, Ohio, who drove 11 hours to attend the sentencing.
Ragan went to prison in Ohio for fatally stabbing Moeller’s 21-year-old son Douglas during a brawl over a keg of beer Nov. 30, 2003. Ragan stabbed his son three times, Moeller said — once in the neck, severing the jugular vein and carotid artery, once in the shoulder and once in the liver.
Sentenced for involuntary manslaughter in 2004, Ragan spent less than four years in the Ohio prison system before he was released, Moeller said. Moeller said he was told then that Ragan was “a victim of circumstances.”
Speaking on Ragan’s behalf was his mother, Vivian Price, who was barely audible as she asked McBride “just for a little hope.”
She said Ragan’s father abused him as a child, causing Ragan to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, for which he has been treated since he was diagnosed at age 14 and determined to be disabled.
She regrets what happened to the Hearns, she said: “I pray for this family every day.” She prays they will heal and forgive, “not for Jake,” she said in reference to her son, “but for themselves.”
Through tears she added, “I am so sorry. Nobody wins today. Both families lose.”
Ragan’s defense attorney, Bill Mason, read a brief statement from his client, who wrote that he was sorry for what he did, and should never have brought a gun to the Hearns’ house.
He lost control that day because he could not find his son, who he thought was at the Hearns’ home with his estranged wife, Holly Hearn’s sister. “I lost it. I was wrong,” he wrote, later adding, “I wish I hadn’t done it.”
Prosecutor Jennifer Cooley told McBride Ragan did exactly as he had intended that day: “He carefully designed and crafted this plan.”
Testimony in the week-long murder trial showed Ragan, then 27, had a shotgun when he went to the Hearns’ 5912 Billings Court home looking for his son about 7 p.m. Aug. 26, 2011. Though his wife and son sometimes stayed with the Hearns, they were not there that day.
Ragan first confronted Holly Hearn in the yard before she fled into the house, then he aimed the shotgun at her husband, demanding to know where his son was.
Ryan Hearn’s 4-year-old son was with him when Ragan confronted them, and the child begged Ragan not to shoot his father. The Hearns’ 8-year-old daughter and other children were inside the house.
Ragan ordered Ryan Hearn to kick in a side door to the home. When the door wouldn’t budge, Ryan Hearn ran toward the front door with Ragan chasing him.
As they neared the door, Holly Hearn, 28, came out with a .38-caliber revolver she’d retrieved from the couple’s bedroom. Ragan blasted her in the chest at close range, killing her feet from the door.
Ryan Hearn, 28 at the time, tried to get away, sprinting across the yard. Ragan turned and shot him from behind, shattering his right femur and mangling his right hand.
As Ryan Hearn tried to crawl to safety under a car, Ragan walked over, crouched and tried to shoot him again, but the shotgun apparently jammed, a witness said.
Among the children inside the Hearn’s home was a girl, then 10, who called 911 upon seeing Holly Hearn’s body outside. She was among the witnesses who wept last week recalling the violence.
After the assault, Ragan got back into his Ford F-150 pickup and fled to his father’s Talbotton home before surrendering to authorities in Harris County, where he grew up.
Before McBride sentenced Ragan, Holly Hearn’s sister told the judge her family was trapped in a “living nightmare” in which they remained in “permanent fear” for their children’s safety.
Afterward, she said she finally felt some relief, knowing Ragan would remain in prison for the rest of his life.
He belongs where he never again can harm someone, she said: “He had no regard for human life, and was a direct threat to society.”