PITTSBURG — Brian Bridges will spend at least the next 25 years in prison after being sentenced Monday in the 2014 slaying of Taylor Thomas.
District Court Judge Kurtis Loy, sentenced Bridges, 20, to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years Thursday morning after hearing an impact statement from Tom Thomas Jr., Taylor Thomas’ father.
Tom Thomas called the murder of his son “cowardly” and read a passage of scripture, before speaking for roughly 12 minutes while a large photo of Taylor Thomas was held up.
Bridges sat silent and slumped with his head down through the statement.
Bridges’ attorney, Rick Smith, read a prepared statement written by Bridges in which Bridges took responsibility for Taylor Thomas’ death and apologized for what he had done.
On Nov. 18, Bridges pleaded no contest to one count of first degree murder and was subsequently found guilty by Loy. As part of the plea agreement, charges of aggravated robbery, conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated burglary and conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary were dropped.
Bridges will also have to pay $438 in court costs, $791.43 in reimbursement to law enforcement for his extradition and $20,000 in restitution to the family for funeral costs. The restitution is to be paid first and is shared with the other defendants in the case. Should he be released, Bridges will also be required to register as violent offender for 15 years.
Thomas was killed in a 2014 home invasion in which Bridges, Corbin Spragg and Darius Rainey allegedly broke into Joseph Otter's home to steal money and marijuana.
Spragg, who has pleaded guilty as part of an agreement, to one count of second degree murder and one count of aggravated kidnapping testified in a preliminary hearing earlier this year that the plan for the robbery which ended with the death of Thomas on Oct. 9, 2014, began the evening before.
Spragg, 21, testified that his cousin, Tyler Smith, had originally come to Spragg looking for someone to rob because Smith was broke and needed money.
Spragg said that he suggested Joseph Otter, whom he knew as a fellow marijuana dealer, to Smith and they then contacted Rainey to enlist him in the plan.
He said he, Smith and Rainey drove around town smoking marijuana until Rainey had to go to work at McDonalds. Spragg then testified that he and Smith continued to drive around Pittsburg, smoking pot and Spragg made some pot sales.
Late the evening of Oct. 8, Spragg said Smith decided he was tired and did not want to participate in the robbery and so Spragg enlisted Bridges to take his place.
After allegedly picking up Rainey and Bridges and retrieving a pair of firearms — a shotgun and a .40 caliber handgun — from Juan Salas-Rueda, and donning a trio of masks purchased earlier at Wal-Mart, they used what Spragg described as a "battering ram" to break down the back door of Otter's house.
Salas-Rueda was recently sentenced to 61 months in prison on charges of aggravated robbery and faces deportation to Mexico on his release.
Otter testified that he and his girlfriend were awake and preparing to watch a movie when they heard the back door broken in. Having been robbed before, Otter said he opened the front door and he and his girlfriend fled across the street.
The robbery ended with the death of Thomas after he was shot by Bridges. Rainey is the only defendant who has not either plead out or been sentenced. Bridges was the last suspect to be arrested in connection with the home invasion. He was arrested by United States Marshals on February 28 in Juarez, Mexico.
— Patrick Richardson is the managing editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter @PittEditor.