A jury deliberated for less than an hour Thursday before finding Gregory Gathers guilty murdering Renee Nevarez last year in North Charleston.

Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson sentenced Gathers, 48, to life in prison. The sentence took into account the murder conviction, plus Gathers' 1988 conviction for assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said.

"We are grateful that Judge Nicholson gave the max for a man who devastated a family and refused to accept responsibility for such a savage attack," Wilson said.

She said the jury deliberated for about 45 minutes before handing down the verdict in Charleston County General Sessions Court.

The 53-year-old Nevarez was beaten and cut while arguing with Gathers in her home, authorities said.

According to Assistant Solicitors Culver Kidd and Adam Young, who prosecuted the case, Gathers and Nevarez had a relationship in which he gave her crack cocaine in exchange for sex.

After spending the evening of June 7, 2010, with Nevarez in her home, Gathers began to suspect that she had stolen about $400 from him. He began to beat and torture her in an attempt to recover his money.

Gathers punched her in the face and head until she died. At some point, he used a kitchen knife and cut slits into her eyelids. Gathers never recovered his money, and it was never found by law enforcement who searched the home.

"Though Gathers admitted to killing Nevarez, he tried to make it her fault," Kidd said after the trial. "Some of the pictures of the victim were so gruesome that the judge couldn't allow the jury to see them. Fortunately, the jury was able to see through Gathers' lies and hold him accountable for his brutality."