Shooter sentenced

Published 7:14 am Friday, December 24, 2010


COURTLAND—Statements by a former Franklin man’s teacher and the mother of his daughter weren’t enough to sway a judge from sending Eric Johntelle Atkins to prison for 33 years for shooting a Windsor man.

During Tuesday’s sentencing in Southampton County Circuit Court, Judge Rodham Delk Jr. recognized that although victim Scott Hepler may have put himself in an unfortunate situation, that does not mean he deserved to be shot by Atkins.

“The charge that he’s been brought against, I don’t feel that he’s done it, but I can’t say, because I wasn’t there,” Tina Johnson, the mother of Atkins’ 8-year-old daughter, told the judge before he handed down the sentence.

“I do know he’s not that type of person,” Johnson testified.

Earl Williams, who was Atkins’ teacher at Paul D. Camp Community College, said he was never a problem in class, and he could not see Atkins committing this crime.

A jury on April 2 found the 30-year-old guilty of shooting Hepler multiple times in the abdomen during a fight on Jan. 21, 2009. After being shot, Hepler drove from Franklin to Windsor to a friend’s house, and emergency rescue personnel were notified.

Seven months later, Atkins was found in Richmond after he was arrested for shoplifting, and was returned to Southampton County for prosecution in the shooting.

In sentencing Atkins, Delk upheld the jury’s suggestion that he serve 20 years for aggravated malicious wounding, five years for attempted robbery, three years for the use of a firearm during an attempted robbery and five years for using a gun to hurt someone. Atkins also received three years probation.

He also was charged with possession of a firearm by a felon from the incident in Richmond; that charge was dropped.