A North Carolina man who gunned down a Good Samaritan during a snowstorm will spend at least 14 years in prison.
Marvin Jacob Lee admitted on Wednesday to fatally shooting 26-year-old Jefferson Lee Heavner on an icy Catawba County road in January 2016.
Lee, 29, of Claremont, was sentenced after pleading guilty to second-degree murder and two counts of discharging a weapon into an occupied vehicle, the Catawba County District Attorney’s Office said.
Lee’s car stalled in the snow on Mathis Church Road in the Bandys community of southeast Catawba County, and Heavner stopped with some friends to help, sheriff’s investigators said.
Lee appeared to be impaired, so one of them reached in the car and took the keys out of the ignition, the sheriff’s office said at the time. Lee then left the car, pulled out a handgun and opened fire.
“They thought he was drunk or on dope and said, ‘Let’s just call the law and let them deal with it,’ ” Sheriff Coy Reid said the week of the shooting.
As the helpers called, Lee took out an automatic pistol and started shooting, the sheriff said. The group ran. A bullet struck Heavner, who fell. Reid said Lee walked to Heavner, stood over him and shot him “numerous times.”
Other rounds were fired into vehicles of others who’d stopped to help the stranded driver, according to prosecutors.
Officers arrived and saw Lee passed out in the car. They got him out and took him into custody, according to prosecutors.
Days after her brother was killed, Jessica Heavner told the Observer that it was just like her brother to stop and help a stranded driver.
“Pretty much the irony is he went out of this world doing what he loved to do: helping people,” Jessica Heavner said of her brother, a single dad.
On Wednesday, Superior Court Judge Daniel Kuehnert called Lee’s sentence “a just result; it’s still a tragic result.” He encouraged Lee to help others as he moved forward with his life, according to the district attorney’s office.
Before Lee was sentenced, Heavner’s mother, Lena Eidson, addressed Kuehnert along with other family members.
“My boy is gone, and I can’t bring him back,” Eidson said, according to a statement from the district attorney’s office. “There’s nothing done here today that can change that. In order for my life to go on without my little boy, I have to forgive, and I do. I forgive the person that took my son’s life.
“I want justice to be done as much as the law will allow,” Heavner’s mother said. “I forgive you, Marvin Jacob Lee, and I will pray for your soul every day.”