A 73-year-old Lexington man who shot and killed another man at a bar in March 2019 was sentenced to 20 years in prison Tuesday after admitting guilt.
Larry Walters, 73 was sentenced by Judge Kimberly Bunnell in Fayette Circuit Court after previously pleading guilty to second-degree manslaughter, second-degree assault and second-degree wanton endangerment. He pleaded guilty to the amended charges last month and has been on home incarceration, still receiving credit for time served.
He received 10 years for manslaughter, 10 years for assault, and by law, the three counts of wanton endangerment -- which carry a sentence of 12 months each -- are set to run concurrently.
Originally, Walters was charged with murder, first-degree assault, and three counts of wanton endangerment after he opened fire in Uncle 7’s Bourbon Bar & Grill on Delzan Place, fatally wounding James Terry.
Walters will be eligible for parole after serving 20% of his sentence, according to state law. Because he has been credited for time served, he could be eligible for parole next year.
Terry was one of two people taken to University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital after the shooting. Terry died early the next morning of a gunshot wound, according to the Fayette County Coroner’s Office.
According to police, a fight broke out between Walters and Terry inside the bar before Walters began to fire his gun. Walters was found outside his Galata Drive home later and he claimed he did not recall any events of the bar and was shocked and remorseful when he learned of his actions.
Walters was set to have a jury trial in June, but the judge declared a mistrial when it was found that jurors selected could be “skeptical of mental health defenses.” His defense team planned to argue he was not guilty by reason of insanity.
Terry family says the justice system failed
Terry’s wife, Linda Sue, and son, Chad Michael, said in court Tuesday that the justice system failed them when the Commonwealth Attorney’s office offered Walters a deal.
“The Assistant Commonwealth Attorney’s Office failed the families with offering this sentence and compromise,” she said. “I don’t understand how he gets 20 years for killing a man and will probably only be behind bars for five and a half months. Then the burden is put on me to go before a parole board to plead for more time.
“Even after I walk out of here today, the pain, financial burden, and heartache will not end.”
Terry said after every court hearing for the past three years, she was left battered and bruised by the justice system.
“I went to jail on March 11, 2019, with a life sentence unable to function on my own, unable to leave home, my safe place, while the rest of the world now feels scary,” she said. “At 69, how do I rebuild my life? I still walk the floors at night in panic, afraid to face the morning.”
Chad Michael Terry, James Terry’s son, his family has had a crash course in the American judicial system since 2019, patiently waiting for their day in court, which was expected in June 2022 with a jury trial.
With the acceptance of a guilty plea, Terry said that day never came.
Judge, defense: ‘Nothing can make it better’
Before imposing sentencing, Bunnell said there was nothing she could do to make things better.
Bunnell said she disagrees with the law giving defendants credit for time served if they are on home incarceration, and compared it to “being grounded.”
“Two sets of families’ lives have been destroyed, completely,” she said. “Another family traumatized, and many, many, many families changed forever.”
She said this was all because Walters took a gun out that day.
“We have got to figure out how to change the environment with guns,” she said. “If there had not been a gun, someone may have just gotten mad and pushed someone, hit somebody, and we wouldn’t be here today.”
Defense attorney Gregory Coulson said he could offer no words to minimize hurt caused to the family, but that his client was cognizant of the pain he caused.
He added that the prosecution did everything in their power to make sure justice was served to the fullest extent of the law.
“I am compelled to say I still believe in the (justice) system and sometimes I struggle and am frustrated by it, but I believe in it still,’ he said. “But the prosecution in this case was as professional and vigorous as any that I have ever dealt with and I have been in criminal defense law my whole career. ...
Coulson added that the prosecutors “know the job, they worked hard, and did everything they could to bring justice here.”
Walters also said there were no words he could offer that would take away the pain of his actions.
“I am truly, very deeply sorry for that pain and that void,” he said. “I know an apology or expression of remorse means nothing. It’s vain, and that is a hard pill to swallow. But I would hope someday that family and these people may just forgive.”
Staff reporter Chris Leach contributed to this story.