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No remorse as Johnson gets life without parole
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With a stern message from Judge John Turner, Kevin Johnson was sentenced to life without parole Thursday for the February 2010 murder of 2-year-old Melanie Rose Haynes.

"I’ve been doing this a long time," Judge Turner said. "I don’t particularly expect a contrite heart from a defendant. But what I find in your case is no remorse. And when you had a chance to express your sympathy to the family of the child, this was all about how this was going to affect you. The only appropriate sentence is life without parole."

Johnson was convicted two weeks ago on eight counts in the death of Melanie Rose Haynes, the daughter of his girlfriend. Jurors deliberated less than two hours before returning guilty verdicts on malice murder, three counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated battery, one count of aggravated assault and one count of cruelty to children.

The counts were merged into one murder charge for Thursday’s sentencing.

"There is no doubt — there is no doubt — of the guilt of this man in this case," Assistant District Attorney Brian Deal said of Johnson. "There is no doubt of the extreme brutality of this man, and he has been remorseless in this process. He has taken away every day of the rest of her life and everything she would have become. The only sentence that could come close to justice is life without parole."

Like Judge Turner, Deal also was thrown by Johnson’s demeanor when he took the stand at his sentencing.

"I’ve never seen, in any context of any crime on the statutes, a defendant who showed no remorse whatsoever," he said. "There was no sympathy for the victim in this case, and there was no sympathy for the victim’s family in this case.

"His entire testimony was an attack on the people who brought charges on him," Deal continued. "You look for remorse, but you can’t find any."

In reading a statement from Kevin Haynes, Melanie’s father, prior to sentencing, Deal struggled to keep his emotions in check, as did several court officers. Haynes is stationed in Germany and could not return for the trial. He was serving in Afghanistan when Melanie was killed.

Haynes said that just days before Melanie was killed, he and his ex-wife talked on the phone and got on the computer so his daughter could see him on the Web cam.

"She pointed at the computer

and for the first time ever I heard her say ‘hi Daddy,’" his statement said. "Through all that happened between her mother and I," Haynes’ statement continued, "she still knew that I was her daddy."

But a few nights later, his first sergeant knocked on his door after Haynes, trying to get about five hours of sleep before his next shift, had finished his previous shift and his schoolwork.

"I looked at his face and something was wrong," Haynes said in his statement.

The first sergeant told Haynes, "I don’t know how to say this to you,"’ and handed to him a Red Cross message — Melanie was in intensive care in the hospital and may not survive.

It took Haynes three days to fly home from Afghanistan and as he got to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan to start the journey, he called to see how his daughter was doing.

"The doctor asks me the grueling question, the one that to this day I cannot believe I had to answer," he said. "He told me at this point there was nothing that could be done for my little girl, that the only thing left was for me to decide if I wanted to have them pull her from life support and donate her organs or wait and take the chance of the organs going bad. … In the end, my answer to the doctor was to let my baby go so that someone else could have the chance to be with their baby as mine was already gone."

Haynes recounted how the funeral home let him have one last look at his daughter, since her injuries prevented them from having an open casket.

"I had a hard time seeing her lay there, her skin feeling cold, and scars all over her body," he wrote. "I fell to my knees next to her casket and cried for help to understand how this could happen and why I was not there to help her."

Haynes said he placed a single red rose into her arms then and placed another single red rose into her grave.

"It is my true belief that she will not truly rest until justice is served, till the person that committed this horrendous crime is convicted," he said.

Johnson was the only defense witness called in the trial and was the only defense witness in the sentencing phase.

"I have been slandered as guilty by people who don’t even know me," he said. "I am not the kind of criminal people are trying to say I am."

Johnson said he too was a veteran, having served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, did not have a prior criminal record and had worked in the operating room at the Memorial University Medical Center.

"I have been convicted by what people have said of me," he said. "I have had to deal with this every single day of my life since. I’ve been on antidepressant pills for being accused of murder. I don’t care if Mr. Deal looks at me with an evil face. You can give me life, but I know I am going to leave soon and be a free man."

Prosecutors were satisfied with the punishment handed down to Johnson.

"It was an appropriate sentence," said Ogeechee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Richard Mallard. "The judge summed it up pretty well. He never mentioned the victim’s family. He only talked about himself."

Mallard also said cases involving children are the most difficult, and he praised the investigators and the prosecutors.

"It was a good investigation, and that’s what happens — you get the ultimate sentence," he said.

"This has been a difficult case," Deal said. "This was an exceptionally brutal crime."

Deal recalled the testimony of GBI Coastal Regional chief medical examiner Dr. Jamie Downs, terming it "compelling." Deal pointed out how Dr. Downs noted that every veterbrae in Melanie Haynes’ neck had been broken and that she suffered an injury that he rarely sees.

"She was struck with such sufficient force that her eyeball fractured her eye socket," Deal said. "That is unimaginable force. That is unbelievable force. No one inflicts this type of injury on a 2-year-old child, unless they intend to do what they are setting out to do."

Deal also said Johnson was uncooperative with authorities from the beginning of the case and that Johnson’s reasonings for how Melanie incurred her injuries could not come close to describing how she was injured.

"There has been no remorse," Deal said. "There has been no sympathy exhibited by this man throughout this trial."