published Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Johnathan Ellison sentenced to life in Dade County drug deal slaying

TRENTON, Ga. — A 19-year-old Dade County, Ga., man who showed no emotion during his weeklong murder trial tried to hold back tears Wednesday when his father asked the judge to let his son one day see his children outside prison.

"I know he has to pay for what he's done," said Johnathan Ellison's father, Nickey, tears in his eyes. "I do ask anyway for life with the possibility of parole so he could get out and see his kids and have a future."

Afterward, Superior Court Judge Brian House told Ellison he didn't believe Ellison was a good father, based on court testimony, but that he wasn't on trial for that.

"Your father begs for your life," House told Ellison. "This is one of the worst crimes one could commit. ... [But] one thing you do have in your favor is no criminal record and your age."

With those words, House sentenced Ellison to life with the possibility of parole in 30 years for malice murder, felony murder and aggravated assault.

A Dade County jury convicted Ellison last week in the stabbing death of Antwane Hyatte, 36, of Chattanooga. According to testimony, Hyatte came to Ellison's house March 16 to sell him marijuana and Ecstasy.

James Oglesby, 27, who was also at Ellison's home, faces identical charges and will be tried next year.

After sentencing, Ellison stood and told his family he was sorry for what he put them through. But first he turned to Hyatte's mother and two sisters, saying, "I'm sorry for what happened to him that day."

Hyatte's family held each other as they wiped away tears.

Hyatte was the father of a 16-year-old son.

During the hearing, the audience saw a slide show of Hyatte with his son, mother and sisters.

"It was obvious [Hyatte] was a good father to his son and a good son to his mother," Judge House said. "He had some problems, but he didn't deserve what he got."

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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