ROCKVILLE, Md. (WJLA) - An 80-year-old man will likely spend the rest of his life in prison for trying to kill his own flesh and blood.
On Tuesday, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge David Boynton sentenced James Lewis of Robertsdale, Pa. to 35-years in prison for shooting his son over an inheritance dispute.
The family quarrel centered on a wooded four-acre property along the 300 block of Ednor Road in Olney. Lewis' then 92-year-old mother, who owned the land, chose to jump a generation and gift the estate to her grandson, Rusty Lewis, 58. That decision didn't sit well with James Lewis, who ultimately sought fatal revenge against his adult son.
In the early morning hours of Sept. 19, 2011, the Air Force veteran drove his red pick-up truck 130 miles from Pennsylvania to the vexed Montgomery County property. Investigation photos show the shoes James Lewis checked at the home's entryway, the clear latex gloves he wore, and the antique .32 caliber revolver he hand-picked to shoot his son fast asleep in a bedroom. Call it great luck, a guardian angel, or just a bad shot, one bullet pierced Rusty Lewis' inside forearm, while a second grazed his forehead before plunging into a white pillow.
"If not for his son moving one way or hearing his father say, 'This is for you,' we might have had a murder case on our hands," Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office spokesman Ramon Korionoff said.
At his sentencing Tuesday, James Lewis entered the courtroom confined to a wheelchair. The disgraced father wore thick black-framed glasses, a forest green jail jumpsuit and a stoic face. Due to his deteriorating hearing, court bailiffs provided the older Lewis with headphones to better understand court proceedings.
"The defendant has had zero responsibility. He thinks he is above the law. Based on his actions, it's our [Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office] belief Mr. Lewis should spend the rest of his natural life in jail," a Montgomery County prosecutor said in court.
When given the opportunity to deliver a pre-sentence statement, James Lewis led a roughly 30-minute monologue, which at times went terribly off-topic, delving into failed marriages, professional life and early parenting practices.
"I am not the person the prosecutor has projected. My son has never called me 'cowardly' to my face in all these years. It was my job to correct him as a boy. Giving him a whipping was part of my make-up," James Lewis remarked.
James Lewis, who expressed no remorse for his actions, later told the court he missed his current wife of 39-years, and 13-year-old dog, who he pointed out, "is like 91-years-old in dog years."
"My wife is standing the brunt of this. I am concerned she may not live through this," James Lewis added. "The prosecution is trying to make me out to be a sociopath and a psycho. My actions that transpired that day were in self-defense."
After giving-up the floor, Judge Boynton directed sharp words at the 80-year-old convicted criminal.
"All I've heard you say is negative things about everyone in your life. It's somewhat surprising the only remorse you feel is for your wife and dog, not even your son who you tried to murder," Judge Boynton said with a sharp bite.
Despite pleas for "mercy" and a probationary sentencing using "GPS trackers" or "drones," Judge Boynton sentenced the former Florida Department of Corrections employee to 35 years in Maryland state prison.
"He was just showing the judge exactly what I wanted the judge realize; that he has no remorse, that he lies, that he's an evil person. Period," Rusty Lewis said following his father's sentencing. "He's a predator. He belongs where he's at."
"I know there are worse fathers, but he's the worst one I've ever met. He's abused us all in every way he could," Rusty Lewis' half-sister Debby Shockley added. "I'm happy justice was served, but it really should have happened 30 years ago."