STUART — Clarence Michael Eugene Peery on Friday was sentenced to 23 years in prison for shooting and killing James Robert “J.R.” Martin.

Peery, 25 of Bassett was found guilty in April of first-degree murder and using a firearm in a felony.

Patrick County Chief Circuit Court Judge David V. Williams took over retired Judge Martin F. Clark Jr. and pronounced the final sentencing.

“I took the liberty of reviewing the entire transcript,” Williams said, stating that he felt “up to speed.”

In April Patrick County Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Vipperman and her assistant Dayna Bobbitt argued that on March 6, 2018, Peery hunted down and shot an unarmed Martin once, and after he collapsed, continued to shoot him or shoot at him as he tried to get away, killing him.

However, the defense contended Peery, 25, of Bassett shot Martin, 29 of Patrick Springs after seeing him hit his pregnant sister in the belly, snatch their 3-year-old son and carry him in a dangerous manner, then rush toward Peery.

Peery’s attorneys, Deputy Public Defender Vikram Kapil and Assistant Public Defender Lauren McGarry, contended Peery feared Martin might take away the rifle Peery was holding, go to his car and get a weapon or go home and return with a weapon and use it on Peery, his sister and/or the 3-year old.

Tracy Martin, sister of James Robert “J.R.” Martin, gave an impact statement before the judge.

“It breaks my heart that I will never be able to see him smile,”she said. “A piece of me is gone and will never come back.”

Martin testified that her brother “loved Jacob [J.R. Martin’s 3-year old son] with all of his heart. He always wanted to be a part of Jacob’s life, and now that is not possible.

“I know my heart breaks but I can only imagine how Jacob feels.”

During the trial Judge Clark did not allow the jury to consider the possibility that Peery acted in self-defense, ruling there was no overt act indicating there was imminent danger, a ruling to which the defense strongly objected.

“We do not agree with the sentencing but respect it as it stands,” Kapil said.

Williams carried out the jury’s recommended sentence for Peery but added 3 years post release of good behavior and supervised probation. He also was ordered to pay $6,151.02 in restitution for funeral expenses.

“He helped everyone who knows him,” Martin said of her brother.

Peery declined to comment during the hearing.

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