MARTINEZ -- A former Richmond resident was sentenced to 14 years in prison Wednesday for the shooting death of an Iron Triangle neighbor after a dispute over loud music.
Demaurier Bullard, 27, received 10 years for manslaughter and four years for a firearm enhancement as part of a plea agreement. Before he left the prisoners' holding pen in Judge Terri Mockler's courtroom, he heard family members of Latoi Stevens explain what kind of man he killed on March 17, 2009.
"You took my father," wrote Stevens' daughter Cheroi in a letter read to the court by prosecutor Jason Peck. "Now the only time I can see him is when I'm looking down at his tombstone."
Wrote Chanel Cruz, Latoi Stevens' older sister, "Who made you better than God to take away a life? Only a coward would do what you did."
One after another, letters and comments from family members described Stevens as a fun-loving family man who was attending culinary school, had just gained custody of his 3-year-old daughter and loved to play the drums in church. Bullard had just moved to Richmond from Oakland when he confronted Stevens about loud music coming from his house. The following day, he shot Stevens.
"There was an argument on a Monday night," wrote Latricia Davis, Stevens' sister. "Tuesday night, my brother Latoi Stevens was dead."
Bullard moved to Sacramento after the killing and eluded capture for four years. Peck said authorities were able to locate him when the mother of his child began using welfare benefit cards that could be traced back to her. Bullard was captured by Sacramento County sheriff's deputies on April 17, 2013.
He will have to serve at least 11 years and 11 months in prison before being eligible for parole.
As part of his plea agreement, Bullard was ordered to pay $7,443.11 in restitution for Stevens' funeral expenses. Further restitution may be requested.
But Bullard's family lamented that no amount of money would bring him back. Their letters and comments were heard over the sound of sniffles and soft sobbing.
Ariana Fuller, Stevens' niece, recalled how she and Stevens would watch the movie "The Last Dragon" and how he could repeat "every scene word for word." She also recalled his concern when she was sent to continuation school because of her "horrible" grades in high school.
"Because of (Bullard's) actions," she wrote, "I'll never get to hear my uncle tell me he is proud of me for graduating."
Mockler thanked the family members for their courage and their words. "You have moved the court very much," she said.
To Bullard, she said, "I hope you spend at least some of your time over the next several years reflecting on how what you do affects so many people. One impulsive bad choice in a split second has an incredible effect."
Contact Gary Peterson at 925-952-5053. Follow him at Twitter.com/garyscribe.