UKIAH — A murder suspect who was on the lam more than 12 years was sentenced Friday in Mendocino County Superior Court to 32 years to life in prison.
Jerred Hernandez, 32, last month pleaded guilty to murder, arson and several special allegations, including using a metal baseball bat to beat to death Michael Williamson, 44, of Ukiah. The two were neighbors and Williamson, a recovering substance abuser, was trying to mentor Hernandez.
Williamson's father and brother spoke at the Friday hearing, saying the sentencing brings them closure and that they've forgiven Hernandez.
"It lifts us," said Norm Williamson, the victim's father. He thanked law enforcement officials for their nearly 14-year effort to resolve the case.
Dan Williamson, the victim's brother, talked about the family finding faith in God in the years before the killing and how it has since helped them cope.
He said he's glad Hernandez is going to prison but also said he's forgiven him and hopes he finds God.
"There's room for a person to serve God in prison," he said. "Let Jesus be your shock collar."
Hernandez stood with his eyes cast down as the Williamsons spoke and chose not to respond to their statements.
District Attorney Dave Eyster and Public Defender Linda Thompson said the plea agreement was best for the family because it kept them from being forced to relive the brutal incident at trial.
Eyster called the sentence "just."
In handing down the sentence, Judge Ann Moorman told Hernandez he should heed the Williamsons' advice.
"I believe there's a lot of good you can do and there's a whole lot of bad you can avoid" in prison, she said.
Williamson was living with his parents and had been clean and sober for two years at the time of his death in August 2000, according to his brother.
His parents were away, vacationing in Idaho and Oregon.
Hernandez and a friend showed up at Williamson's home, expecting to barbecue chicken, but it was late and Williamson turned them away, according to testimony at a preliminary hearing.
Hernandez returned to the house, beat Williamson multiple times in the head with the baseball bat, then ransacked the home and started a fire to cover his tracks, the prosecution said. Jewelry, credit cards and personal checks belonging to Williamson's parents were missing from the home, police said.
Hernandez fled to Mexico where he was captured in May 2013.
(You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)