LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - An Angelina County judge sentenced a 23-year-old man to life in prison Wednesday morning for the June 12, 2013 shooting death of Albert Hodge, 60.
Rakeem Rhodes appeared in Judge Bob Inselmann's 217th Judicial District Court Wednesday for a sentencing hearing. Inselmann's sentenced came after a pre-sentencing investigation was conducted.
Back in October, an Angelina County jury found Rhodes not guilty of the original charge, which was capital murder. However, they did find him guilty of the lesser charge of first-degree murder. Rhodes was originally charged with capital murder because he robbed Hodge in addition to shooting him six times.
Following the judge reading his sentencing decision, Rhodes was visibly angry, and he directed profanities at the judge. However, earlier in the sentencing portion of trial it began with news that Rhodes's attorney John Tunnel said he was just made aware of.
"I was informed of an aggravated assault that happened in the jail, another charge that has been added to my client. I feel this is something I need to look into before we proceed," Tunnel said.
Judge Inselmann made the decision not to postpone the sentencing, and said it would not affect his decision either way. The judge has been deciding the sentencing for Rhodes based off of information provided in a pre-sentence investigation file that is a collection of information about Rhodes.
"I just want y'all to be aware of what I decide in this kind of thing. The first thing I look at is if they are a direct public safety threat, Mr. Rhodes has lived a relatively short amount of time, but has been arrested many times," Inselmann said. "The second factor I consider when determining a sentencing is that if the crime is of such a nature that the community would require a lengthy incarceration."
Inselmann went onto explain that the crime Rhodes has been convicted of would mean the community would demand him to be incarcerated. He also read a letter written by Rhodes included in the PSI that was asked to be considered in the length of time he will spend behind bars.
"Usually when someone writes this letter it shows some kind of remorse for his actions, but that was not the case," Inselmann said.
He went on to explain that he received support letters, as well victim impact statements that he thoroughly reads and considers in his decision.
"You are probably expecting an apology letter, but I will not express remorse or regret or be apologetic for anything I didn't do. You may look at this letter and think I have no regard for human life, but that is not true," Rhodes said in the letter. "I hate that the victim was killed, but I can't do anything to bring him back."
Inselmann stated that he thought maybe the letter would take a different direction, and show sympathy, but said that it was not the case. He said the letter was very, "telling" of Rhode's character.
Rhodes was escorted from the courtroom, and the family members of Hodge who has been present during all four days of trial said they can finally move forward with closure.
"I am overwhelmed and glad that it's all over, because even though we had the sentencing today," the sister of the victim, Benita Hodge said. "It won't bring my brother back, but we now can move forward knowing there is one less murderer off the streets."
Albert Hodge's other sister said that their family has been dealing with the pain of their brothers loss for so long, but it is still fresh on their hearts.
"There is not a word in Webster's dictionary that would explain, that is powerful enough to explain, the hurt we went through with his loss," said Joann Arguman. "We will not let Rakeem Rhodes ruin our life, or my brother's legacy. My brother's legacy will run me."
Their family met at Hodge's grave stone in a special ceremony. They said it is just one way to let their loved one know that his memory lives on through all the people he left behind.
"We will just remember that sweet smile, that laugh and that charisma," Hodge said. "His family loved him, and he loved his family."
They let a collection of black, red, and white balloons go and even sang some of his favorite hymns. Their family said they will continue to honor the life he has left behind.
Rhodes will be transported to a Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison, but Inselmann said based on his letter in the PSI, that he believes Rhodes will eventually appeal his sentence.
East Texas law enforcement authorities tracked Rhodes down at an apartment at Oakhill Plaza Drive on June 24, 2013. Deputies from the Nacogdoches Sheriff's Office and U.S. marshals surrounded the building, and Rhodes was taken into custody without further incident.
According to the affidavit, two LPD officers responded to a 911 call about shots fired at a residence in the 700 block of Weaver Street late in the evening of June 12, 2013.
When the LPD officers arrived on the scene, they found the home's front door standing open. One of the officers found Hodge lying on the floor with several obvious wounds to his face, chest, and arms.
"Hodge was gasping for air and appeared incoherent," the affidavit stated.
Rhodes has had numerous run ins with the law, dating back to 2010, when Rhodes was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for punching two women with a pair of brass knuckles. His other arrests and charges include burglary of a habitation, evading arrest and failure to identify.