Murder victim's family speaks before sentencing

Jeffrey Jennings in court Friday morning / Angie Dones

(Updated 12:11pm) Jeffrey Jennings, 29, pleaded guilty in a Conway courtroom Friday morning to the murder and armed robbery of Thomas Holcombe, 37.

Holcombe owned "Thee Pawn Shoppe." He was killed July 25, 2008 inside his shop.

During Friday's plea hearing, 15th Circuit Solicitor Greg Hembree took the court through the days before and after Holcombe's murder. He said days before the murder, Jeffrey met up with his estranged wife Brenna in Asheville, NC. Together, they travelled to Greenville, SC. Hembree says while in Greenville, the two became involved in some drug business which led to Jeffrey being robbed. Hembree said Jennings turned the tables and sought retribution on a drug dealer in the Greenville area, Deran Marquis Jamison, and killed him.

Hembree told the court that the couple arrived on the Grand Strand with the plan of heading to Mexico. They checked into a hotel in Atlantic Beach. According to Hembree, on the day of the murder Brenna Jennings parked behind the pawn shop and waited while Jeffrey went in the front door. Jeffrey was carrying a 40 caliber hand gun and robbed the store of guns, jewelry and cash. As he left, he fired at Thomas Holcombe at point blank range in the forehead, killing him. Hembree said the couple then fled to Virginia Beach where they sold the items stolen from Holcombe's shop. From there, they fled to Johnson City, TN where authorities caught up with him and arrested him.

Holcombe's brother, mother, and father all spoke before the sentencing. Robert Holcombe, Thomas's father, said of Jeffrey Jennings, "He not only stole from my son's business, he stole from us. Somewhere along the way, I hope his conscience, if he has one, will follow him and torment him every day of his life." Robert went on to say, "In my opinion, he does not deserve to be a part of our society."

Barbara Holcombe, Thomas's mother, said, "He was very special to us, our family and his friends. It's unbelievable to us now that he is gone forever because of one selfish evil act of violence."

After the family spoke, Judge John asked Jennings if he wanted to speak. He apologized to the family and said he knew it wouldn't change anything, but he was sorry.

With that, Judge Stephen John sentenced Jeffrey Jennings to life without the possibility of parole on the murder charge and 30 years without the possibility of parole for the robbery.

Jennings was already in prison, after pleading guilty last October to killing Deran Marquis Jamison in Greenville. For that crime he was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

Jennings' wife Brenna is charged as an accessory after the fact of Holcombe's murder. Solicitor Hembree says that charge will be dealt with next month.