Ulysses Wiggins sentenced to 30 years in prison
A Superior Court jury might have had a difficult time deciding the fate of a Ulysses Wiggins last month, but Judge Frank Jordan Jr. had no such problem on Wednesday.
Calling him “a danger to the community,” Jordan gave Wiggins the maximum sentence of 30 years in prison for aggravated assault on his then girlfriend Valorice Caples, using a firearm to commit a crime and a felon in possession of a firearm.
On Aug. 30, after about 12 hours of deliberation, a Columbus jury delivered a mixed verdict in the retrial of Wiggins, who was charged with murder in the Dec. 16, 2008, fatal shooting of Catherine Walker at a Talbotton Road apartment complex.
Unlike the judge in Wiggins’ bench trial in 2010, the jury found him not guilty of malice or intentional murder and reached no verdict on the charge of felony murder for allegedly killing Walker while committing the felony of aggravated assault.
Assistant District Attorney Katie Hartford argued on Wednesday that Jordan should give Wiggins the maximum sentence, while defense attorney Nancy Miller said the judge should let him free with the eight years he has served on the 2010 conviction.
Hartford outlined Wiggins’ extensive criminal history, dating back to a 1975 burglary conviction. He was convicted of a 1989 armed robbery and served nearly a dozen years in prison. Court records showed Wiggins pleaded guilty but mentally ill Jan. 8, 1990, to eight counts of armed robbery and one of aggravated assault for offenses committed over the summer of 1989.
“With this defendant’s felony convictions, you have to consider his criminal history,” Hartford said on Wednesday.
The judge did.
“The court has listened to evidence in trial, considered the criminal history of defendant, his propensity for violence among and toward children,” Jordan said.
Wiggins’ sister Delores Johnson and his new girlfriend Patricia Williams asked Jordan to show mercy.
“He is a God-fearing man,” Williams said. “He has been a great help in my life and with some of the things I have been struggling with. He is a rock for me.”
Considering time served, Wiggins, 60, will not be eligible for parole for at least five years, likely longer. The next decision in the case is up to Hartford and the district attorney’s office. They have the option to re-try Wiggins on the felony murder charge for allegedly killing Walker, since that ended in a hung jury. A decision on a possible re-trial on the murder charge will come sometime this fall, Hartford said.
The judge who heard the case without a jury in 2010 found Wiggins guilty of murder, and he was sentenced to life in prison. But the Georgia Supreme Court this past Jan. 19 overturned his conviction, ruling Wiggins had asked to represent himself, and the judge neglected to hold a hearing on his request.
Though the justices said they found the evidence sufficient to support Wiggins’ conviction and sentence, they sent the case back to Muscogee County for a retrial.
Witnesses in the new trial last month, painted the picture of a man out of control. Two witnesses testified they saw Wiggins shoot Walker outside the apartment complex he and his girlfriend Caples were visiting.
Witnesses said Wiggins became enraged when Caples tried to get into another man’s car, and he rushed over and yanked her away. This prompted Caples’ friend Carolyn Senior to get between Wiggins and Caples to break up the fight.
Caples’ teenaged nephew saw this, and spurred a group of teens to go after Wiggins, chasing him four or five blocks to his home at 2316 16th Ave., said Hartford. There Wiggins got a gun and chased the teens back toward the apartment, firing four or five shots on the way, the prosecutor said.
When he got to the apartments, he pointed the pistol at Caples and told her, “I told you I was going to kill you,” Hartford said. When Senior again intervened, he pointed the gun at her, too, the assistant district attorney said.
The two women got away, and Wiggins started prowling around the apartments until he saw Walker standing outside and shot her, though she had not been involved in the earlier confrontations, Hartford said.
Staff writer Tim Chitwood contributed to this report.