Susan Pace watched the courtroom ceiling and squeezed family members' hands as tightly as she could while the jury foreman read the verdict.
She was convinced that 19-year-old Quinzell Grasty was the one who broke into the home of her grandson, Matt Coyle, in April, put a sawed-off shotgun in his face and pulled the trigger.
After several hours of deliberation Friday, a Hamilton County jury agreed, finding Grasty guilty of first-degree felony murder, attempted especially aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary.
"Thank you, God," Pace whispered as the verdict was read.
Grasty was sentenced to life in prison on the murder verdict. He will be sentenced next month on the counts of aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary.
None of Grasty's family was present for the verdict reading. His girlfriend, 17-year-old Brionna Solomon, clutched a small book on prayer as she waited for hours outside the courtroom and cried as she listened in court.
"I couldn't see him doing something like that," Solomon said after the verdict. "I could see him getting mad. He could fight. He could fight. But he didn't have the heart to do something like this."
Grasty told police he had led four other gang members to the house on Standifer Gap Road because he believed one of Coyle's roommates might have drugs or money to steal.
Coyle and his girlfriend, Sarah Gill, were sleeping when they heard a loud noise in the home. Gill watched Coyle crack open the bedroom door, holding a pocketknife. The she saw him fall back into the room, shot in the head, police testified.
"He loved everyone," Pace said. "He was a good person. He didn't judge people. There is no telling what he would have accomplished."
During the trial, jurors listened to two taped police interviews with Grasty, which prosecutors Lance Pope and Cameron Williams said were key pieces of evidence in the case. In the first tape, Grasty told police he had not handled the shotgun or shot Coyle during the robbery, but he later confessed, saying it was an accident.
In the second tape, made a month later, Grasty said he had confessed because he wanted to cover for his friend and fellow gang member, Michael Adams, whom he said was the real shooter.
Prosecutors alleged Grasty tried to go back on his confession because members of his gang, Treetop Blood, hadn't supported him or sent him money since his arrest.
"We are very pleased with the verdict," Williams said. "We feel like justice was served."
After the jury left the courtroom, Grasty's defense attorney, Robin Flores, said he would be filing for a retrial. He found a newspaper in the jury box, held it up and asked Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Don Poole to put the finding on the record. During the trial, jurors aren't allowed to read news about the trial or talk about the trial.
Contact Joan Garrett at email@example.com or 423-757-6601.