CLARKSVILLE, TENN. — Two 19-year-old Clarksville men were sentenced to life plus 25 years in prison for killing a Fort Campbell soldier following a sentencing hearing Thursday in Judge John H. Gasaway’s court.
Giovonne Johnson, 19, and Rakeem Jones, 19, were sentenced to an automatic life sentence for the first-degree murder of Specialist Taylor Hotzoglou, 22, who was killed on April 28, 2012, after giving the two men a ride.
The two men showed that night at Hotzoglou’s Fort Campbell Boulevard apartment and asked for a ride to a location on Peachers Mill Road. They robbed and shot Hotzoglou six times in the back and face leaving him to die. Hotzoglou was found by a passerby dead in his car on the shoulder of Victory Road.
A gun Hotzoglou had carried for protection that night was later found in Jones’ possession. It was never fully determined who the shooter was, but testimony and evidence pointed to Jones as the shooter.
Following a jury trial in September, a Montgomery County jury found both men guilty as charged of first-degree felony murder, second degree murder and especially aggravated robbery. First-degree felony murder has an automatic life sentence with eligibility for parole in 51 years. The second degree conviction was merged with the first-degree murder conviction and Judge Gasaway had to decide the sentence for the especially aggravated robbery and whether it woudl be served concurrent or consecutive to the life sentence..
After a sentencing hearing Thursday, Judge John H. Gasaway ordered their life sentences to be served consecutive to a 25 year sentence for especially aggravated robbery saying they were dangerous offenders who needed extended confinement to protect the public.
Gasaway said they were both leaders in the crime he described as a “cold-blooded” act without any “justification at all.” He said both men were criminally responsible for the actions of the other.
Jones and Johnson, who were tried together, had separate sentencing hearings at the judge’s discretion. Neither gave statements of remorse prior to sentencing. Their lack of remorse contributed to Gasway ordering the consecutive sentences.
Johnson at times smiled, shook his head or held his head down during the hearing. Jones also held his head down at times.
Gasaway said both men dressed in black, armed themselves and planned to rob someone. He said they showed a “reckless indifference” as to what could happen by behaving in a violent manner.
The mother of Johnson became visibly upset as his sentence was handed down and stormed out of the courtroom. Johnson then stood and started to resists officers as he was led from the courtroom.
Robert Nash, who prosecuted the case, met with the Hotzoglou family and lead Detective Mike Ulrey and Detective Tim Anderson after the sentencing hearing.
“The court was absolutely correct in ordering consecutive sentences,” Nash said. “The nature and circumstances was extremely egregious, violent and heinous. The fact this was a done to a complete stranger doing nothing but trying to help two people in need. A lot of things about this case made it a very ugly and nasty crime.”