By Patsy R. Brumfield
TUPELO – John E. Bell’s mother wept as his father told a judge Wednesday how much they miss him.
Bell died from injuries in a May 14, 2011, vehicular accident near the intersection of Jackson Street and Coley Road.
His friend, Wesley Brandon of Belden, pleaded guilty to the Lee County charge of DUI-death as the vehicle’s driver.
Circuit Judge Thomas Gardner sentenced him to 25 years with 15 years suspended, five years post-release supervision and fines to run concurrent with an Aug. 1 federal drug sentence.
John Bell said his son’s death “was devastating, heartbreaking.”
Fighting back tears, he told the court, “We hunted and fished, we were certified in scuba diving … we miss him terribly.”
He also said his son’s organs were donated with the hope they could help someone else.
Bell said they grieve for Brandon’s family and his struggles with alcohol and other substances. “We feel like it’s important he’s punished for what he’s done. We lost our son and his memory will always be with us,” he said. “We ask the court to give us a fair judgment for what needs to be done in a case like this. We won’t ever see our son again, he’s gone.”
Gardner, who lost a daughter in a wreck years ago, told him, “I understand exactly what you’re saying. There’s not much else I can do for you.”
The maximum penalty for conviction of this crime is 25 years and $10,000 fine. The minimum is five years.
The Bells agreed with the sentence recommended by Assistant District Attorney John Weddle.
Indicted in 2011, Brandon has been in custody since a bond hearing in mid-2012.
Wednesday, the 32-year-old wore red- and white-striped Lee County Jail garb as he sat beside his attorney, Frank Russell of Tupelo.
Half a dozen of his family members sat in the courtroom.
Earlier this year, Brandon pleaded guilty to involvement in a regional conspiracy to distribute heroin. He was sentenced to time served and placed on three years’ supervised release.
Brandon apologized to Bell’s family and his, saying it was a “terrible tragedy” which will affect him the rest of his life.
Russell told the court, “This is one of the most tragic cases I’ve seen in the past 43 years” since Russell graduated from law school.
Russell said it’s the case of two friends, one in the cemetery and one headed to prison.
He also asked the court to give his client credit for time served, about 15 months, since his bond was revoked.