A Baton Rouge man convicted and condemned to die in 2008 in the killing of Olive Garden employee Aaron Arnold in 2006 pleaded guilty Tuesday in return for a life sentence, bringing “closure’’ to the victim’s family who wanted to see the two suspects executed.
Sanchez Brumfield, 26, who was appealing his conviction and death sentence, signed a plea agreement and “contract for life’’ — meaning neither he nor anyone on his behalf can appeal his guilty plea to first-degree murder or his life sentence.
Brumfield’s deal came three months after his co-defendant, Tracy Young, pleaded guilty during jury selection in Young’s capital murder trial in exchange for a life sentence.
Young, 33, of Baton Rouge, also signed a contract for life.
Young was accused of shooting Arnold, 21, and Dionne Grayson during a botched robbery while Arnold — an LSU pre-med student from Zachary who worked at the Olive Garden — helped Grayson put gas in her car behind the Siegen Lane restaurant on Sept. 8, 2006.
Grayson also worked at the restaurant.
District Attorney Hillar Moore III said in March after Young signed a contract for life that he felt justice dictated Brumfield be allowed to do the same.
Grayson, who was shot in the leg, testified at Brumfield’s May 2008 trial that Brumfield told Young to “just shoot them if they don’t …’’
She identified Young as the shooter and said he demanded their wallets.
Arnold’s father, Bobby Arnold, stood next to prosecutor Dana Cummings and told Brumfield during a Tuesday hearing that his son would have celebrated his 26th birthday next week.
“I think it was your choice to take part in this. You didn’t choose to stop it. You chose to watch my son die that night,’’ Arnold, his voice cracking, told Brumfield, dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit and standing next to his lead appellate attorney, Richard Bourke.
“In my heart you and Tracy Young should have died for what you did. You don’t deserve to live,’’ Arnold added.
Arnold told Brumfield the Arnold family wanted no part in changing the jury’s verdict, but said the family put its trust in God and the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office.
“It’s the best thing for our family to bring closure,’’ he said.
Brumfield said nothing to the Arnold family Tuesday. Young apologized to them in March.
Arnold told reporters Tuesday that the past five years have been incredibly trying for his family.
“We’re going to miss Aaron every day,’’ he said.
Veteran prosecutor Dana Cummings, who handled the Brumfield and Young plea agreements and contracts for life, told reporters she could not recall another case handled by the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office where a death verdict was replaced by a life sentence without intervention from a higher court.
“Not in the time that I’ve been here,’’ Cummings said.
“It was a tough decision. It was thought out,’’ she added.
Cummings said it is the responsibility of prosecutors “to keep dangerous people off the streets and to see that justice is served.’’
“I think it (justice) has been’’ served in this case, she said.
Cummings said it is her hope that Bobby and Terry Arnold “will have a life.’’
“They will not have to wait 15 to 20 years to see him (Brumfield) executed,’’ she said.
“I plan on this being my last trip to this courthouse,’’ Bobby Arnold said. “I don’t think I’ll ever come back.’’
State District Judge Todd Hernandez, who presided over Brumfield’s capital murder trial in 2008, told Brumfield on Tuesday that his life term must be served without benefit of probation, parole, suspension of sentence or commutation of sentence.
An East Baton Rouge Parish jury had convicted Brumfield of the first-degree murder of Aaron Arnold and the attempted first-degree murder of Grayson. The attempted murder charge was dropped Tuesday.
The jury recommended Brumfield be put to death. Hernandez formally imposed the death sentence in December 2008.