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Watkins sentenced to 40 years in prison

NATCHEZ — Larry Watkins, 20, was sentenced Tuesday to serve 40 years in prison for manslaughter and aggravated assault.

Watkins pleaded guilty to the charges; he was originally indicted for murder and aggravated assault stemming from a July 2010 incident.

Watkins, 1400 Lafayette St., reportedly confessed to fatally shooting Benjamin Hargrave, 21, and wounding Curshala Pernell, 19, with a handgun July 31.

The incident occurred at 1:38 a.m., at 1401 Lafayette St.

Judge Forest “Al” Johnson delivered Watkins the maximum sentence, 20 years, on both the aggravated assault and manslaughter charges.

Both sentences are to run consecutively.

District Attorney Ronnie Harper said the prosecution decided to offer the charge of manslaughter rather than murder based on the facts and circumstances of the case.

Harper said the case presented a question whether Watkins shot the victims using premeditation, which would qualify as murder, or in the heat of passion, which qualifies as manslaughter.

“(Watkins) agreeing to admit guilt to manslaughter was a satisfactory resolution to the case,” Harper said.

During the investigation, Natchez Police Chief Mike Mullins said police believed the incident was the result of domestic disputes.