Emotional requests from the family of a taxi driver who was shot on Dillon Street in Conway in 2016 and from the family of his suspected killer were shared in an Horry County courtroom Thursday afternoon.
The family of David John Bennett, 54, wanted 20-year-old Tranique Livingston of Conway to get the maximum penalty for voluntary manslaughter and Livingston’s family called for the least sentence allowed.
Livingston pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter under the N.C. vs. Alford provision. He had originally been charged with murder and possession of a weapon during a violent crime. The gun charge was dropped in exchange for the plea, as were an armed robbery and a kidnapping charge. In that case, Livingston was charged with going into a Conway Liberty Mini Mart with two handguns, holding two employees at gunpoint and demanding money from the register.
Under Alford, a person says he didn’t commit the crime, but he understands that in view of the evidence a jury might find him guilty. It is the same as a guilty plea for purposes of sentencing.
Circuit Judge Steven John sentenced Livingston to 30 years in jail, giving him credit for the two years he has already served.
Livingston was charged with shooting Bennett inside of his Yellow Cab. According to one member of the Bennett family, Livingston robbed Bennett of about $18.
Livingston chose not to speak during the court proceeding and there was no explanation given for what happened on that November day in 2016.
Charges are pending against Lloyd Edward Pertelle III, 20, of the 800 block of Rufus Street in Conway for accessory after the fact of murder. A warrant says after the fatal shooting occurred, Pertelle is suspected of transporting Livingston away from the site.
Bennett’s sister, JoAnne Dow, said, “I’ll never see my brother again in this world and I miss him everyday.”
She said when Livingston is released from prison he will be younger than her brother was when he killed him.
She described her brother as a good man and good law-abiding citizen who worked hard to take care of his family.
Dow said her brother would give people the shirt off of his back, and if they tore it off, he’d give them another one.
One of his daughter’s Julianne Bennett said her father was the kind stranger on the street who had a smile for everyone.
She said he told her he was proud of being a taxi driver.
“He was making money and he was happy helping people,” she said, adding that he went so far as to help “little old ladies” to their doors if they needed it.
She called him the family’s hero and said the way he died was worse than if he had died from natural causes because he didn’t get a chance to tell any of them goodbye.
She described him as kindhearted and compassionate and said he loved people.
Bennett said by taking one person’s life into his hands Livingston changed many lives.
Prosecutor Lauree Richardson told John that Livingston had a limited adult criminal record because he had been an adult for only about five months when the shooting happened.
But his juvenile record was extensive including assault and battery, disorderly conduct, contempt of court, injury to public property and more.
She called Livingston a violent person, but said, “I don’t believe he set out to kill Mr. Bennett, but I do believe he set out to rob him,” adding that he did it in a way that took someone’s life.
Defense attorney Barbara Pratt expounded the tragedy that was Livingston’s life.
She said he was always a respectful and polite person with a grandmother, aunt, sister, cousins and great-aunt who cared about him.
But he began to change at about age 12 after his uncle shot himself and his grandfather died.
After that he was placed in a self-contained class at school, but he worked hard and was able to get back into the regular school population.
One family member said when he was only 3 or 4-years-old, he was in the house when a family member attempted suicide, and at 13 or 14-years-old his mom told him she didn’t want him.
Pratt believes that if he had gotten counseling then his problems might have been avoided.
She said he fell into depression and began to self-medicate.
She described his grandmother as a strong and godly woman who tried to raise him the best she could.
She said he had the chance to be a good athlete, but because he was moved so many times he was unable to follow through with sports.
He was a senior at Carolina Forest High School, who was looking into going back to school, when the incident happened.
She said his problems were not of his own making, and, with his mother’s permission, said his mom had failed him.
He looked for a family that was not there and got involved with people he should not have, she said.
His mom agreed saying she felt like she had failed him, saying she loves him and he’s good to his family.
His great-aunt Mary Washington said the Tranique she knows has always been respectful and well respected.
“I’ve never seen him angry…I know he has potential,” she said, later saying she had never seen him talk back to his grandmother.
In the past, she said, her family liked to jump into their camper, ride and just have fun.
“I can’t say what part he played in it (the killing), but he can ask God for forgiveness for his part,” she said.
She referred to the common adage that it takes a village to raise a child, saying that the village that took Livingston in was not the type of village that he needed to be a part of.