WJHL.com - Jury finds Justin Stratton guilty of first-degree murder; Stratt

Jury finds Justin Stratton guilty of first-degree murder; Stratton sentenced to life in prison

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WASHINGTON COUNTY, TN (WJHL) -

Despite his insistence on the stand Thursday that he is not a killer, a jury of his peers found Justin Stratton guilty of first degree murder Friday.

Investigators say Stratton set up Gary Couch to rob him on Quarry Road in Johnson City in the summer of 2011, shot him several times, then run him over with an SUV.

Stratton was charged with first degree murder, aggravated robbery, burglary and theft of two vehicles from Reliable Motors. Police said one of the stolen vehicles was involved in the murder.

It took four days of testimony and about six hours of deliberation for the jury to find Stratton guilty. But prosecutors and Couch's family have been waiting on this verdict for almost three years.

"I've been on this case for the get go, from the very first decision on what to do with the case, and its been a long hard road," Assistant District Attorney Dennis Brooks said this was a difficult case to try.

"I had three witnesses, who were eyewitnesses to the crime, who, I've seen them all lie about this case," he said. Those three witnesses testified against Justin Stratton earlier this week.

"I think they've overcome it this week by stepping forward and telling the truth, and I believe they did all tell the truth," he said.

Victim Gary Couch's mother said she's relieved to see Stratton convicted, "I am very pleased with the verdict, he deserved what he got for what he done to my son."

She said her son was a good man, "he was a great person, he did not deserve to die this way," who will be missed by many.

"He was loved by so many people, he had all kinds of friends that loved him and family that loved him," she said.

Stratton showed little emotion in court Friday, especially in comparison to Thursday's outbursts. When the verdict was read, he simply shook his head.

Conviction for first degree murder comes with an automatic life sentence in prison.

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Copyright 2014 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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