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'13 murder earns 2 life terms


This article was published August 1, 2014 at 2:15 a.m.

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TEXARKANA -- The triggerman in a fatal, drug-related shooting received two life sentences from a Miller County jury Wednesday afternoon.

Serandon Ramon Starling, 26, was found guilty of murder and of committing a terroristic act by a jury of seven men and five women after less than 30 minutes of deliberation.

The jury spent about 10 minutes deciding punishment. In addition to the two life terms, Starling received 15 years on each count for using a firearm in the commission of a felony.

During the two-day trial in a second-floor courtroom at Miller County Courthouse in downtown Texarkana, witnesses testified that Starling shot Andrew Lee "P.J." Cheatham III in the mistaken belief that Cheatham had stolen an ounce of crack cocaine from his brother, Frank Starling.

"Their son was hunted down like a dog and shot in the face," deputy prosecutor Stephanie Black said during closing arguments, referring to a sizable group of Cheatham's family watching the trial. Several family members of the victim wore T-shirts with Cheatham's photo.

Serandon Starling's defense attorney, John Stroud of Texarkana, argued that Starling wasn't the only person identified by witnesses as the shooter when Cheatham was killed April 18, 2013, on Walter Street near Pinehurst in Texarkana. Stroud also pointed to a .380-caliber pistol found in Cheatham's hand after the shooting.

State Desk on 08/01/2014

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