A 21-year-old Chattanooga man pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Thursday for his role in a 2011 drive-by shooting death.
Edward Ryals Jr. was sentenced to 18 years in prison for the death of Ronald Blackmon.
Ryals' father, mother and other relatives were in court for the hearing. Courtroom deputies allowed the family to hug and say goodbye to Ryals before taking him back to the jail.
Standing in a red jumpsuit, his hands shackled at the wrists, Ryals repeated, "Stop crying, momma."
After the hearing his father, Edward Ryals, said that the family supported his son and he would have work for him when he returned home.
"We apologize to the Blackmon family for what happened, hopefully they can forgive him," Ryals said of his son.
Ryals and Demetrius Bibbs were both charged in the March 6, 2011, murder. Each blamed the other for firing the shots that killed Blackmon. Another man in the car during the shooting named Quincy Bell was never charged in the crime.
Bibb's charges are still in place, but he has been free on his own recognizance awaiting trial. His next court date is April 29.
In March, Ryal's attorney, Amanda Dunn, asked that a statement from Stephanie Paisley, Bell's girlfriend, be allowed into the pending trial. Paisley claimed that Bell told her that Ryals had shot Bell and Ryals took the murder charge in his place.
Bell was killed on Sept. 22, 2012. Marcus Boston was charged in the crime but charges were dropped when a witness wouldn't testify.
Prosecutor Cameron Williams told the court that a separate recording of Paisley dismissed that theory and she would testify that she'd received a letter from Ryals asking her and Bell's family to testify that Bell had done the shooting.
The shooting arose from an altercation the previous night. When the trio were driving they mistook Blackmon for another young man who'd been involved in the previous night's events and began firing at him.
Dunn said that Ryals had completed his GED while in jail and is a good candidate for rehabilitation, given his family's support.
Contact staff writer Todd South at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP.