The man convicted of murdering four people at a Waffle House will spend the rest of his days in prison. Jurors in Davidson County, Tennessee, sentenced Travis Reinking, 33, to life behind bars without the possibility of parole. Statements from the families of slain victims Joe Perez Jr., 20, Taurean C. Sanderlin, 29, DeEbony Groves, 21, and Akilah Dasilva, 23, highlighted the catastrophic loss from their deaths. An attorney for Reinking said they were not trying to get jurors to forgive him, but only to apply mitigating circumstances under the law. Jurors once again sided with the state. The judge will handle sentencing on lesser charges at a later time.
Jurors convicted Reinking on all charges Friday. The defense argued that he was insane under the law. Their stance was that he only stormed that Nashville restaurant on April 22, 2018 of his years long struggle with schizophrenia. He believed government agents and even pop star Taylor Swift were tormenting him, including by breaking into his home, and reading his thoughts his attorneys said. In this account, he even believed the singer sexually assaulted him. Reinking, armed with an AR-15, attacked that Waffle House to put a stop to it all. He suffered delusions and committed the shooting under severe mental disturbance, attorney Luke Evans said during the penalty phase on Saturday.
The defense sought the only sentence they could have: the possibility of parole after 51 years in prison.
Prosecutors maintained, however, that Reinking acted methodically. By complying with law enforcement who arrested him, he showed that he could comport his actions to the law, they said. This was evidence against the insanity defense.
Prosecutor Jan Norman told jurors during the penalty phase rebuttal argument that Reinking planned on killing all 22 people at that Waffle House and was not expecting to make it home. As seen on video, James Shaw Jr. stopped him by yanking the rifle from his hands and tossing it over the counter. Reinking showed that he valued his life by surrendering to authorities the next day, Assistant District Attorney Roger Moore said in opening statements on Saturday.
Bullets did not just rip through the victims, they ripped through the dozens, if not hundreds of people connected to them, he said.
Family members delivered heart-wrenching victim impact statements from the stand on Saturday.
“This has broken me,” Joe’s mother Patricia Perez said. “Not just my spirit, not just my family but also my mind.”
The mother of Joe Perez broke down on the stand this morning as she talked about her son. She said she has always been the strong one in the family but this has “broken” her. She wakes up every day with a little hope that this is all a dream #WaffleHouseMurders #TravisReinking pic.twitter.com/Z7eFOj5dki
— Cathy Russon (@cathyrusson) February 5, 2022
Joe moved to Nashville to help his brother Christian Perez run a business, but now, Christian blames himself for Joe being there and has left the city because of the shooting, their parents say. April 22, 2018 was the worst day of the family’s lives, father Joe Perez Sr. said.
The father of Joe Perez, Jr. tearfully testified at the sentencing phase of the #WaffleHouseMurders trial. He talked about his son and how that day in 2018 was the worst day of their lives. @LawCrimeNetwork pic.twitter.com/xvd3WKQCAf
— Cathy Russon (@cathyrusson) February 5, 2022
Sanderlin’s aunt Blanch Henderson said he lived with her for two years and was like a big brother to her son. Taurean would man the grill at family reunions, taking care of the best food you could eat, she said. She described him as a happy but quiet person.
Dasilva’s mother Shaundelle Brooks said she woke up every morning with the same thought, “My baby is gone,” even before she gets out of bed. Akilah was taken from her, ripped from them, she said. He left home on April 22, 2018 with a video game paused in his room, music up on his computer.
Akilah’s brother Abede Dasilva, who survived the shooting, said he relives his brother’s final words every day. He tries to block it out but he cannot, he said. Akilah did not deserve this, he said. Abede, who said he lives with PTSD because of what happened, said he has not seen their mother happy in a long time. He wished it was him who died instead of his brother.
DeEbony’s father Albert Groves described her as daddy’s little girl, born on Father’s Day in 1996. He called her a mini-me because of how close they were. Her death hurt everyone, he said. DeEbony was someone with so much potential.
Her brother Di’Angelo Groves said he dreamt about her a couple of times, and it would be so real to him that he would cry and thank God that He resurrected her. That was how real the interaction was. But he would wake up and know she was not actually there. He did not realize how intertwined their lives were until she passed.
[Screenshot via Law&Crime Network]
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