Sandy Kaynor Jr. kept a box of tissues on his lap as he sat in an Orleans Parish courtroom Tuesday morning, but he never reached for it.
Paralyzed from the waist down and rendered mute by gunfire during a 2012 armed robbery, Kaynor held one curled hand near his chin and another on his heart, head back, mouth open, a tasseled blanket at his feet.
Kaynor, 56, was a successful lawyer until two bullets tore through his body on a quiet Tuesday night outside his Camp Street home.
Since then, he has relied on loved ones to do almost everything for him. And so they wept for him Tuesday inside a packed courtroom as Kaynor’s wife, Grace, and their 17-year-old son, Granville, addressed Byron “Poodie Man” Johnson from the witness stand.
Johnson, 23, pleaded guilty Monday and accepted a 45-year prison sentence. Two alleged accomplices await trial on the shooting as well as other armed robberies that took place about the same time.
“Sandy made the boring routines of everyday life special,” Grace Kaynor said. “He never wanted fortune or fame, and he never craved the limelight. He loved his family, and he loved life. He was just as comfortable at home playing guitar as he was with his colleagues and clients. He was an accomplished musician. He had an incredibly beautiful and soulful voice.”
On the night of the shooting, she said, “I found him lying in the driveway. I told him everything will be all right. The last thing he told me was, ‘No, it will never be all right. I can’t feel my legs.’ ”
One bullet entered his chest, tearing through organs. The other slashed into his back, severing his spine. The assailants then entered the house to swipe electronics, a wallet and cash from the house while Grace Kaynor and their daughter were inside. Then they stepped over Sandy Kaynor’s body and sped off in his Cadillac.
In the aftermath, a brain hemorrhage took Kaynor’s ability to speak.
“Our lives have been destroyed,” Grace Kaynor said, as her husband sat in the courtroom aisle.
Pressure sores forced the removal of Sandy Kaynor’s tailbone, she continued, and there is little hope for any recovery.
“I relive the nightmare of that night every time I look at my beautiful husband in his diminished capacity,” she said. “When I go out, I often feel alone. Everyone knows things about the shooting before they even say hello. It’s awkward for me because I know people care, but they don’t know what to do.”
Then she turned her attention to Johnson, who sat quietly in an orange jail jumpsuit and gray sweatpants.
Criminal District Court Judge Laurie White had called in Johnson’s alleged accomplices, 19-year-old Charles Carter and 21-year-old Devante “Tae Banger” Billy, to hear the wrenching testimony. Carter couldn’t be found, but Billy was there. His snickers drew an admonishment from a court bailiff.
Among other crimes, Billy and Carter also are accused in the murder, two weeks after Kaynor’s shooting, of 24-year-old UNO student Valan May. Court records suggest the three men went on a spree of carjackings and robberies, many of them occurring on the same day Kaynor was shot.
Emotionally and financially, the burden has been overwhelming, Grace Kaynor testified.
“No one is going to offer us restitution. You, Byron, have committed this crime, but I am stuck with the bill. Sandy wanted to help rebuild the city after Katrina. He’s not even from here. He’s from Connecticut. We will probably not be able to stay in our home,” she said.
“I never want anyone to experience this heartache, Byron. I will never understand why you thought it was OK to shoot Sandy, rob our house with my tiny child steps away from you watching TV. I feel for you, maybe because you too once had dreams. I hate that this happened. So many lives have been ruined.”
Grace Kaynor, who has become an outspoken advocate for the victims of violent crime, said she feels responsible for going off to sleep that night and for bringing her husband to New Orleans. At the time of the shooting outside the family’s home in the 3400 block of Camp Street, Sandy Kaynor worked at the Jones Walker law firm.
Following his mother to the witness stand, Granville Kaynor addressed Johnson directly, reading from a prepared statement.
“My father could do almost anything. Never have I met someone so talented, so gifted at so many things. He sang and played guitar with me every night,” the teenager said.
“He taught me compassion, to follow my dreams, and most importantly, he taught me right from wrong. You’ve taken away the person I want to be like most. You’ve taken away my No. 1 role model and my best friend.
“From my sister, Phoebe, you’ve taken away her hero. ... And from my mom, you took away her soulmate, the love of her life.”
Still, Granville Kaynor said he forgave Johnson, who declined to speak afterward and walked back with his attorney through a rear courtroom door.
Sandy Kaynor sat there, mouth open but wordless. His friends rose and wheeled him outside.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.