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Dukes sentenced to 25 years

VIDALIA — Ever since April 2, 2008, Frankie Holmes has had a deep ache in her heart.

That ache has followed her since her son, Frank Holmes, was killed in a late-night fight in Vidalia, a knife wound to the chest claiming his life.

“He always loved everybody,” she said. “He was never violent and I don’t understand it.”

Frankie Holmes spoke those words Wednesday at Ricardo Dukes’ sentencing hearing, a hearing that came without a trial because Dukes pleaded guilty in January to manslaughter in connection with her son’s death.

And while she struggles to comprehend just what happened, Frankie Holmes said she is going to remember her son’s killer in her prayers.

“I will be praying for him, too, because all children are my children,” she said. “I pray God for him, that God would turn his heart because I don’t hate anybody.”

Following the hearing, Judge Glen Strong — an ad hoc judge filling in for Judge Kathy Johnson — sentenced Dukes to 25 years hard labor.

In court Wednesday, Assistant District Attorney Ann Siddall entered evidence for Strong’s consideration in handing down the sentence that would have been presented at trial.

Siddall gave the judge Holmes’ autopsy report, 55 police photos taken from the scene of the crime and a video-taped confession from Dukes.

Siddall also presented the judge with a framed photograph of the victim, provided by his mother.

“We just wanted your honor to see him as he appeared (in life),” she said.

The defendant’s attorney, Derrick Carson, asked the judge to consider all of the circumstances when handing down the sentence, which had a maximum penalty of 40 years.

The night of the killing, Holmes and Dukes were at the residence of a mutual acquaintance in Vidalia, 103A John Dale Drive. The two men had both been drinking, and police later found other narcotics at the residence.

During the course of the evening, the two became involved in an argument, which eventually escalated and ended with the stabbing of Holmes.

Emergency responders found him on the bathroom floor, unconscious with two stab wounds to the chest. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

“This is a situation where there was the influence of alcohol and other narcotics,” Carson said. “The diminished capacity based on the alcohol and drugs played a part in the altercation.”

Dukes had claimed self defense in the stabbing, and Strong read a portion of his statement to police from the pre-sentencing investigation that had been provided to him.

The statement said Holmes had started cursing Dukes because he believed Dukes was treating Dukes’ girlfriend badly, and that Dukes had pulled his a knife because he knew Holmes had a knife and he thought he was reaching for it, Strong said.

Dukes hit Holmes before he was able to draw a weapon, Strong said.

“I saw him fall, I saw blood, I knew I had cut him,” Strong said, quoting from the statement.

The autopsy revealed that Holmes had alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamines and marijuana in his system at the time of his death, and that he had died because his heart had pumped out the blood too fast because of the drugs, Strong said.

Police later found two knives in Holmes’ pockets, but they were unopened.

Dukes immediately left the scene and went to check on his grandmother, and reportedly told police he did not know Holmes was dead, the judge said.

“It looks like this was a horrible situation,” Strong said. “I don’t believe you didn’t know he was seriously injured.”

The judge told Dukes that he believes that taking a human life demands a substantial price.

“I feel I have to give you a substantial sentence due to the fact that a man’s life has been taken,” he said.

“You are saying self-defense, but it does not appear this is the case.”

Noting that Dukes is 31, Strong said the maximum sentence would effectively be a life sentence. He also said that, because drugs and alcohol were involved, he believed there were mitigating circumstances.

After handing down the 25-year sentence with credit for time served, Strong told Dukes, “You will still be a fairly young man when you get out and still have some life left.”

As the defendant was escorted from the courtroom, Strong turned to the victim’s mother and expressed sadness that he wasn’t able to do more.

But she turned around and — with thanks — stated a sad truth she has faced every day for the last two years.

“You couldn’t bring him back, and you did the best you could, and I thank you,” she said.

Frank Holmes was 50 when he died. Dukes will be 54 when he is released from prison.

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