In a voice barely above a whisper, Leon Ginuwine Holmes apologized to the family of Henry Brown, the man he fatally shot in 2017 after a failed carjacking.
Even in the tense quiet of the courtroom, his words were difficult to hear. Holmes didn't look at Brown's family members, who had asked for the maximum sentence.
The 25-year-old pleaded guilty Monday to charges of murder and possession of a weapon with intent to commit violent crime. After several statements from Brown's family members, as well as Holmes' adopted parents and his chaplain, the judge sentenced him to 35 years for murder and five years for the weapons charge concurrently.
The sentence was less than Brown's family wanted. They hoped Holmes would never be released after he ended the life of the 71-year-old Air Force veteran who confronted Holmes with a gun as he tried to steal Brown's car.
"Our lives changed forever. I will never forget the knock at my door," his daughter Michelle Brown said in a statement read by her sister, Sandra Brown Chew.
The family asked for a life sentence. At minimum, Brown Chew said, they asked for 48 years — the gap between Holmes's age, 23, and her father's age, 71, at the time of the crime.
The day before he was killed, Henry Brown told his daughter on the phone that something wasn't right.
Holmes' adopted parents and his chaplain stood on the other side of the court room. His parents held each other tightly. When their time to speak came, they said very little.
Rebecca Holmes apologized to the Brown family on her son's behalf. "My son is a good person. He made a bad decision," she said.
Her husband Chris' voice was choked with tears. "I just want to say to my son, I love you," he said, meeting Holmes's eyes for a brief second.
Holmes was born Leon Mitchell to a drug-addicted mother and landed in foster care at only 18 months old, his attorney, Ashley Pennington, said.
His life began to look up when the Holmes family took him in, and he was particularly close with his adopted grandmother, Mary Holmes, according to his attorney. Then, when he was 22, she died.
"He was at rock bottom. He had no money, no food," Pennington said.
Holmes was approached about helping steal a car. He was given Brown's car keys, which had been stolen earlier, and a gun, his attorney said. When Brown confronted him and fired into the air to warn him off, Holmes was terrified and reacted in fear, his attorney said.
Holmes' chaplain, the Rev. William Epes, also spoke on his behalf. "Are we more than our worst mistake?" Epes asked the courtroom.
Before giving Holmes a sentence of 35 years, Judge Markley Dennis told the Brown family no sentence could equal the pain and grief they'd suffered.
"If I thought in giving him life, you'd walk out the door in full peace, I'd do it in a second," he said.
Now, he hoped, both sides would have a chance to heal and rebuild.