Updated 9 a.m. March 26.
Coranzo Sterling, 36, of Coldwater Creek pleaded guilty to the murder of Tony Gilliam, 29, Tuesday morning and was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
Sterling also pleaded guilty to possession of a knife during the commission of a crime, which he was sentenced to five years in state prison to run consecutive to his murder charge.
Sterling, represented by Stacey Jackson, came to a plea deal during negotiation moments before heading to a jury trial.
Sterling will receive credit for time served since Sept. 2, 2012. Under the current parole laws, Sterling has the option to be eligible for parole after 30 years served.
Sterling stabbed Gilliam to death with a 12-inch knife following an argument over a $10 debt on the night of Sept. 1, 2012, around 10 p.m. at a house in the 100 block of Belk Street.
When police arrived on the scene they found Gilliam leaning against a chair with multiple stab wounds and not breathing. He was taken to West Georgia Medical Center where he was pronounced dead. Because of the severity of the wounds, Gilliam died just minutes after he was stabbed, prosecutors said.
Sterling fled the scene but returned hours later and was located in a wooded area by a K-9 unit during a search.
Attorney for the prosecution, Jephson Bendinger, said the prosecution had a strong case, yet it took so long to reach a plea because the defense raised issues on Sterling’s mental competency to stand trial. After months of evaluation, it was determined that he was mentally competent.
If the case made it to trial, the defense was planning to stand on self-defense claims.
After pleading guilty, Sterling addressed the court and said, “I want to tell the Gilliam family that I’m sorry for their loss.”
“Cases like this are always unfortunate because you have a loss of a life, not only the victim, but a father, brother and son being removed from his family,” Jackson said. “Both families are hurt by this situation.”
Bendinger called Gilliam’s death a “needless killing” and said two families have been “devastated” by this.
He added that the prosecution is satisfied with the outcome and hopes it will bring peace and closure to the victim’s family.