Editor’s note: This story was updated to add information as to the motive behind the slayings.
PRATTVILLE — It started with dominoes games between friends that ended with three men dead; shot and bludgeoned to death.
Prattville’s deadliest crime ended Wednesday, five years later, with two men sentenced to prison for the rest of their natural lives without the possibility of parole.
But is it over, can it ever be over, for the families of Tony D. Smith, Eddie Dean Scott and Al Seal Benson?
About 50 family members of the victims of the July 3, 2017 massacre in Smith’s barber shop gathered in a Prattville courtroom Wednesday afternoon. They witnessed Circuit Judge Bill Lewis Jr. sentence Marty Morgan, 38, and Keon Cain, 23, both of Prattville, to life in prison without the possibility of parole on capital murder charges.
Both men pleaded guilty, Morgan in 2019 and Cain about a week ago before his trial was set to begin, after the death penalty was taken off the table. The victims’ families approved the plea agreements.
The motive in the slayings was a robbery gone wrong, Prattville Police Chief Mark Thompson said early on in the investigation.
Why did this happen? Family members speak in court
About a dozen family members addressed the court before the sentences were meted out. Cain and Morgan stood to the side, under Lewis’ orders, to listen to the comments. The process took almost two hours. The most asked question was why? Why did this happen?
Everyone in this case knew one another — the victims, their families, Morgan and Cain. Smith, Scott and Benson were well-known and well-respected men in the community. They were youth sports coaches, they coached Cain when he was younger. They drove him to games and practices and made sure he had cleats and equipment.
Cain was a neighbor of Eddie Scott, growing up across the street from him, Scott’s son, Jason, told the court. Another of Smith’s relatives recalled changing Cain’s diapers.
Morgan too grew up in the same tight-knit group, going to school and playing sports with the relatives of the victims. They had spent time together on porches, helped care for sick relatives and comforted each other during funerals.
“What you did was stupid and senseless, it will never make sense,” Mallory Anderson, Smith’s niece told Morgan and Cain. “For a while I carried hatred in my heart for you.
“Not anymore. You don’t deserve my anger.”
Anderson gave an emotional statement to the court, voice strong, often looking over to Morgan and Cain.
“This is last thing I will say, the last thing I will ever say to you,” she said. “I pray you can make peace with yourself and your creator.”
Many of the victims’ relatives that addressed the court offered their forgiveness of Morgan and Cain. Others actually thanked Cain and Morgan for taking the pleas and sparing the families from going through two trials.
“At the end of the day, I knew I had to forgive you,” Jason Scott said. The experience of losing his father led Jason to become a minister. “Yeah, they made mistakes and shook the city up. Thank you for stepping up and taking responsibility for what you did.
“God can change your hearts.”
Other family members expressed anger.
“I had a good brother, he would help anyone,” Barbara Jean Benson said. “He would give you the shirt off his back, Marty you know this. I never will forgive them. I hate them.”
Morgan and Cain allowed to speak at sentencing
Lewis gave Morgan and Cain the opportunity to speak during the proceeding.
“This is for the families, and my family too, I’m sorry,” Morgan said. “It wasn’t supposed to happen, but it happened. I’m sorry.”
Cain said he understood some of the victims’ relatives would not believe him.
“I know my actions were wrong and I know I hurt a lot of y’all,” he said. “I regret what I did, I’m very sorry. I’m very sorry we had to go through this.
“I accept my punishment and take responsibility for what I did.”
The verdict is read to a packed courtroom
Before handing down the sentences, Lewis asked the families in the courtroom to stand. He told Cain and Morgan to turn and face them.
“They chose to do what you wouldn’t do on July 3, they spared your lives,” he said. “Without them I don’t think any plea agreements would have been reached.”
Lewis then paused for several seconds, looking at the packed gallery.
“I hear you,” he said. “I heard forgiveness. I heard we don’t want revenge, we want justice. I heard several of you ask why. We may never know why. And if in the coming years we do find out why, it won’t make sense anyway.
“I know we can’t bring your loved ones back. But from here on I hope you can begin to heal.”
Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Marty Roney at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: Keon Cain, Marty Morgan sentenced in Prattville triple homicide