Raymond Garrett, whose criminal record dates to 1986, had a favorite mode of operation.
The 6-foot 3-inch man, who weighs 250 pounds, liked to sucker-punch his victims before stealing their money.
“What we know about Raymond Garrett is that this was his way of life,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Robert Daskas said.
On June 2, 2004, Garrett targeted retired Air Force Maj. Michael Born, who had gone to the Wal-Mart at Nellis and Charleston boulevards to buy a light bulb. In the store parking lot, Garrett punched Born so hard that he fractured his own hand.
The blow caused Born, 51, to fall to the ground and hit his head. He slipped into a coma and died two weeks later.
Prosecutors planned to seek the death penalty for Garrett until September, when he pleaded guilty to murder in exchange for a life sentence with the possibility of parole.
Garrett, already serving a prison term for a series of robberies he committed in the months surrounding Born’s slaying, was sentenced Friday in the murder case.
Daskas urged District Judge Stefany Miley to make the defendant serve his two sentences consecutively, and Miley agreed. The ruling means Garrett must spend at least 36 years behind bars before officials may consider releasing him on parole.
“So long as Raymond Garrett is out of custody, other people are in danger,” Daskas told the judge.
The prosecutor said Garrett had an average childhood and had no problems with substance abuse, gambling or his mental health. In other words, Daskas said, the man had no reason to lead a life of crime.
“Raymond Garrett is simply too lazy to make it legitimately,” the prosecutor argued.
Daskas also said Garrett knew about Born’s dire condition when he committed a similar robbery five days later.
Garrett, 42, turned toward Born’s loved ones in court on Friday and apologized.
“What I did was stupid,” the defendant said. “I don’t have no excuse for it. I’ve beat myself up for years now, and I cry all the time.”
He said the incident has left him full of guilt.
“If I thought death could have occurred from what I’d done, I wouldn’t have done it,” Garrett said. “I just want to say I’m sorry. How do you apologize for such a loss like this? I just want to say I’m sorry.”
Two of Born’s three sons traveled from Colorado with their mother, Born’s ex-wife, to speak at the hearing.
Peter Born, 23, and Stefan Born, 21, both characterized Garrett’s apology as insincere.
“I don’t think he’ll ever change,” Stefan Born said after the hearing. “I think he’s trying to say what the judge wants to hear in order to mitigate his punishment.”
Susan Taylor, who was married to the victim for 22 years, said Garrett received a fair sentence.
“My only hope for him is that he really meant what he said and that he will ask God to forgive him and ask God to help him change his life,” she said.
Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter David Kihara contributed to this report. Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-8135.