When the verdicts came down the day they were convicted of murder, Lonnie and Louis Mitchell tore off the dress shirts in court that had concealed from the jury the tattoos that ran up and down the brother defendants’ arms and necks.
At their sentencing on Friday, the two revealed a little more about themselves – loudly muttering to each other and their lawyers while the mother of the young woman killed in the Dec. 14, 2010, barbershop shootout delivered her victim impact statement in Sacramento Superior Court.
Deborah Nelson asked the Mitchells if they understood the long-term consequences of the shooting they sparked that ended the life of her daughter Monique Roxanne Nelson, and it was Judge Kevin J. McCormick who gave the answer that sparked an expletive-filled response by the older of the two brothers.
“One of the questions asked by the victim’s mom was whether the defendants really understood the long-term effects of their actions, and I think the answer to that is clearly, ‘No.’” McCormick said from the bench. “As to Lonnie Mitchell, while she was reading all that, he seemed annoyed.”
Lonnie Orlando Mitchell Jr., 28, had remained silent earlier in the sentencing hearing, as did his brother, Louis James Mitchell, 23, when the judge asked them if they had anything to say. Lonnie became more talkative, however, in response to the judge’s remarks.
“Yes, sir,” Lonnie Mitchell interrupted. “She don’t know what this is doing to my mom. She don’t know what I was going through when I was out there and they were shooting at me.”
McCormick tried to continue with his comments, but Mitchell cut him off.
“She don’t know what I went through,” he said of Deborah Nelson. “She don’t know the reason why I carried the gun, people shooting at my car while I’m driving my car.”
Mitchell said he didn’t have the resources “to pick up and leave” the south Sacramento neighborhoods where, for reasons he did not get into, he had become a target. The judge told him that regardless of the circumstances, he chose a dangerous lifestyle, to which Mitchell agreed.
“Yep, and I chose it, and you’re going to give me what you’re going to give me,” he said.
For Lonnie Mitchell, the sentence came to 53 years and four months to up to life in prison, and for his younger brother, it was 52 years and eight months to life.
The bulk of the sentence resulted from their first-degree murder convictions for the death of Monique Nelson, 30, who was shot and killed during the shootout in the parking lot of Fly Cuts & Styles on Stockton Boulevard while draping her body over her then 2-year-old son to protect him from the flying bullets.
McCormick sentenced the Mitchells to added time under the state’s 10-20-Life sentencing law and for the shootings of four other innocent bystanders.
The shooting also resulted in the death of Marvion Barksdale, 20, a rival of the Mitchells. The gunfire broke out at the barbershop after the Mitchells showed up there with an AK-47 assault rifle and an Uzi-style, TEC-9 semi-automatic handgun. It was days after Louis Mitchell had been beaten up by Barksdale for purportedly robbing a friend of his.
James Leo Carney III, 35, an acquaintance of Barksdale who took part in the shootout and whose bullet struck and killed Monique Nelson, was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 21 years. He claimed he shot in self-defense when he came under fire from the Mitchells.
Two other defendants on the Barksdale side, Charles Barksdale, 33, and Dominique Marcell Lott, 31, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter before trial and also were sentenced to 21 years in prison.
Defendant Larry Dean Jones Jr., 33, was acquitted at trial.
Lonnie Mitchell unleashed his profanities at the sentencing in recounting the acquittal of Jones and the dismissal of charges against Ernest Stoute, a onetime defendant in the case.
Jones and Stoute were inside the barbershop the day of the shooting when the Mitchells showed up. It was Jones who made a phone call to Carney, who in turn contacted Marvion Barksdale, who headed down to the barbershop with Lott and Charles Barksdale and who was approaching the front door of the business when the Mitchells cut loose.
“I’m mad at the justice system for letting Jones walk, for letting Stoute get out,” Mitchell said. “And you guys are giving me and my brother life for having some guns? That’s b-------. That’s wrong as f---.”
In her statement to the court, Deborah Nelson recalled her “vivacious, beautiful and quick-witted” daughter who loved her family and her friends and most especially her son Jayden. The two of them had just had their Christmas pictures taken at a photo shop in the same strip mall as the barbershop and were waiting in the parking lot for them to be developed when the shooting broke out around them.
“Nothing good ever comes from violence,” Deborah Nelson said. “It is the greatest sadness of our species that we have not found a way to eliminate violence as a device to resolve our conflicts.”
Deborah Nelson told the Mitchells their violence was “unspeakable” and its consequences in her family’s life “immeasurable.”
“Real loss is when you lose something that you love more than yourself,” she told the court. “Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow. To the Nelson family, Monique will die over and over again for the rest of our lives. Grief is forever. It doesn’t go away. It becomes a part of you, step by step, breath for breath. We will never stop breathing the loss of Monique because we will never stop loving her.”