GREENFIELD — Jennifer Vurdine hates when Shawn Hammons calls himself her father’s friend.
She’s listened to the Pendleton man testify about the day her father, 55-year-old Shannon Kitchens, was shot and killed. She’s heard how Hammons arranged the drug deal, then watched the dealer pull a gun and shoot. Heard how Hammons drove into the country and dumped the body of a man he’d called his friend, along the side of the road.
Tuesday, Hammons, 41, was sentenced to 39 years for his part in the McCordsville man’s death. As part of a plea agreement, he pleaded guilty to two felonies and a misdemeanor. It was a deal penned months ago, one finalized only after Hammons fulfilled his part of the bargain last month: testifying against the shooter, Damian Coleman.
The family can’t get past knowing someone Kitchens trusted put him in danger, Vurdine said.
“A friend would not have let that happen,” Vurdine said, tears streaming down her face as she addressed Hammons from the witness stand Tuesday before his sentencing. “You’ll have to live with that for the rest of your life.”
Hammons pleaded guilty to three of the eight charges he’d faced: a Level 3 felony count of conspiracy to commit dealing cocaine; a Level 6 felony count of altering the scene of a death; and a Class A misdemeanor count of failure to report a dead body. Hammons also admitted to being a habitual offender, which lengthened his sentence.
For his cooperation in the murder trial against Coleman — which ended with a guilty verdict last month — prosecutors dropped the two murder charges Hammons had faced.
As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors also dismissed a Level 3 felony count of robbery while armed with a deadly weapon; a Level 3 felony count of conspiracy to commit robbery while armed with a deadly weapon; and a Level 3 felony count of attempt to deal narcotic drugs.
Tuesday, a judge upheld the terms of the sentence outlined in the plea agreement, ordering Hammons to serve 20 years in prison followed by 19 years and six months on probation.
Hammons was the state’s key witness during Coleman’s trial last month.
Hammons testified he and Kitchens arranged to meet Coleman to purchase crack cocaine on March 1 — the day Kitchens died — using money from a $14,000 disability check the victim had just received.
Coleman tried to rob Kitchens, who was shot during the struggle that ensued, Hammons said. Then, Hammons admitted he dumped Kitchens’ body in 3300 block of West County Road 500N, saying he panicked. A passerby found the victim there and called 911.
Coleman was found guilty of two counts of murder and a series of other felonies. A sentencing date has not been set.
Hammons and his attorney, Jim McNew of Greenfield, did not speak during the short sentencing hearing Tuesday.
Vurdine read a letter on behalf of Kitchens’ family, detailing favorite memories from each of his five children.
Kitchens was kind and caring, Vurdine said. When a friends’ family fell on hard times, Kitchens wouldn’t hesitate to help them, even offering them a place to stay. He loved to go camping, so much so that the campground he always visited with friends and family named the site he always reserved “Kitchens’ Corner” in his honor.
Now, Prosecutor Brent Eaton said his attention has turned to concluding Coleman’s case and ensuring justice for Kitchens’ family.
“We still have work to do,” he said.