Anthony Long, portrayed as mentally impaired when he strangled his wife nearly six years ago, will spend the rest of his life in prison for the murder.
It took the jurors only about two hours Wednesday to convict Long of first-degree murder and second-degree sexual offense. He also was found guilty of attempted first-degree murder in connection with the stabbing of his estranged wifes boyfriend.
Long showed no emotion when the verdicts were announced. As the jurors were polled individually on their verdicts, he stared straight ahead, only occasionally glancing towards the jury box.
Longs attorney, Alec Carpenter, had claimed that his 40-year-old clients diminished mental capacity kept him from understanding that his actions were criminal.
But prosecutors argued that Long knew what he was doing when he killed and sexually assaulted 32-year-old Sonia Long in August 2007 and should be held accountable.
Peggy Chisholm told the judge before the sentencing that the way Long killed her niece showed no respect or value for her life.
Sonia is very much missed, Chisholm said. Tony never loved or respected Sonia. Tony may not have loved Sonia. But we loved her very much.
Mary Cousart, Sonia Longs cousin, told the judge: We will have to live with the loss of Sonia for the rest of our lives.
Superior Court Judge C. Thomas Edwards sentenced Anthony Long to life in prison without parole for the murder.
The judge also imposed two other prison sentences at least eight years for the sexual assault of Sonia Long and at least 12 ½ years for the assault on her boyfriend.
Outside the courthouse after the sentencing, Sonia Longs family called Anthony Longs punishment justice.
Im just glad justice did prevail, Ella Glenn, Sonias aunt, told reporters. I believe they proved it was murder.
Chisholm told reporters: He got the justice he deserved.
But Chisholm said she forgives her nieces killer. The Bible says we have to forgive.
Anthony Longs attorney was disappointed at the jury verdicts.
Anthony Long is certainly disappointed, Carpenter told the Observer. We certainly will appeal.
Mecklenburg Assistant District Attorney Gabrielle Macon told reporters that what happened to Sonia Long was a horrific murder.
Nothing that the defendant did that day was justified under the law, the prosecutor said.
During closing arguments on Tuesday, Macon held up the looped leather belt she contends Anthony Long used to strangle his wife.
He had to watch her die, the prosecutor told the jurors. This is worse than pulling a gun. This is up close and personal. She had to lie there and think about her impending death.
Carpenter had argued that his client was mentally impaired because of an abusive childhood and a bad reaction to the antidepressant Wellbutrin.
His background is not in any way an excuse for taking someones life at all, Carpenter told the jurors. What happened to Sonia was horrible. But what happened to Tony was pretty horrible too.
Anthony Long, depressed and angry, had sought help from Mecklenburg Countys psychiatric hospital in August 2007.
Id like to strangle my wife, he told a nurse, according to medical records.
Long was given a new prescription for antidepressants and went home with instructions to return in three to four weeks.
Two days later, Sonia Long was dead. Shed been strangled.
Anthony Long, in a letter to Mecklenburg District Attorney Andrew Murray, wrote that he was not a hateful killer or monster.
He called his wifes death accidental and unintentional.
I would not ever hurt Sonia or anyone else in a stable frame of mind, Long wrote.
The defenses psychiatric expert, Moira Artigues, said Anthony Long had been tied to a bed and beaten with belts and electrical cords as a child. And, at one point, the psychiatrist testified, his mother pimped him out to men.
All this contributed to childhood post-traumatic stress disorder that changed Anthony Longs brain and sparked a lifetime of substance abuse, Artigues said.
She also criticized the treatment Anthony Long received at Mecklenburgs psychiatric hospital.
But on Tuesday, Nicole Wolfe, a forensic psychiatrist who works for the state of North Carolina, testified that she believed Anthony Long did not have a diminished mental capacity when he killed his wife.
He knew that they were having a conflict, Wolfe told the jurors. He knew that he was choking her when he was choking her. Staff writer Cleve Wootson Jr. contributed.
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