Man gets life in prison for murder during pot theft

April 20, 2012 1:37:46 PM PDT
An Oakland man was sentenced today to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his first-degree murder conviction for fatally shooting a man three years ago during a botched attempt to steal marijuana from the victim.

Tyrrell Hill, 32, chose not to say anything before Alameda County Superior Court Judge Joseph Hurley sentenced him for the death of 28-year-old construction worker Kenny Holowatch in front of Holowatch's home at 1103 Chester St. in West Oakland at about 1:35 p.m. on June 12, 2009.

In addition to murder, jurors in February convicted Hill of two special circumstances: murder during an attempted robbery and murder during a burglary.

Holowatch's mother, Lisa David, and other family members spoke at length during today's sentencing hearing about how the fatal shooting has impacted their lives.

Fighting back tears, David said Holowatch "had a heart of gold and would never harm anyone" and she wonders why he was killed.

She said, "I question, why God, why? Why my boy?"

David told Hill, "I forgive you for what you did to my son and my family. I don't excuse what you did but I forgive you."

Holowatch's sister, Rachel Holowatch, said, "He was my rock" and said that because of his death, "I lost my smile, my sense of being, my strength, my safety, my everything."

Prosecutor Mark Jackson said Hill and three other suspects came to the house where Holowatch and his girlfriend were living after learning that Holowatch was growing marijuana that he planned to sell to medical marijuana dispensaries.

Holowatch's home was burglarized several weeks before the fatal shooting and the people who committed the burglary apparently told Hill and his associates that there was a large quantity of marijuana inside, Jackson said.

Hill and his associates tried to break into Holowatch's home and steal the marijuana but Holowatch and his girlfriend ran out of the house and then got into a confrontation with the suspects outside, according to Jackson.

The prosecutor said Hill shot Holowatch and then a second suspect also shot Holowatch, who died shortly after the shooting.

Jackson said it's not clear who the second shooter was, but he thinks it might have been 20-year-old Albert Tisdale, who will be prosecuted separately on a murder charge later this year.

The other two suspects haven't been identified or arrested, he said.

All four suspects were armed with guns, according to Jackson.

Jackson said that although Holowatch had made "a poor decision to grow marijuana" at his home, he wasn't armed and had no criminal history.

David said Holowatch had been living in North Carolina and had only been in Oakland for two months when he was fatally shot.

She said Holowatch had moved to Oakland to be closer to her after her husband, who was Holowatch's father, died of cancer.

She said her son decided to grow marijuana because "he didn't have any options" since he didn't have any more construction work after the economic downturn.

However, David said his decision to grow marijuana "led to his death."

She said she warned Holowatch about living in West Oakland but he said he liked his house because it had fruit trees and had a garden in front.

David said her son became afraid after his house was broken into and began sleeping with a baseball bat under his bed as well as spending the night at friends' homes.

Holowatch and his girlfriend returned to their home on the day he was killed only because a worker was supposed to meet them there to put bars on their windows, she said.

The worker was supposed to be at the house early that day but hadn't shown up by the time that Hill and the other suspects came there, David said.

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