TAYLOR, Mich. (FOX 2) - A Sterling Heights man was sentenced to life in prison without parole Monday after a jury found him guilty of first-degree premeditated murder for killing a man at a Taylor trucking company last year in what police called a planned killing spree.
Vernest Griffin was found guilty in Wayne County in two cases. In the first case, he was found guilty of assault with a dangerous weapon, possession of a firearm at time of a felony and brandishing a firearm in public. In the second case, he was found guilty of premeditated first-degree murder, carjacking, armed robbery, and possession of a firearm at time of commission of a felony.
Griffin was charged with shooting and killing 60-year-old Keith Kitchen at BSD Trucking, where he was a former employee. He's also charged with then stealing a semi-truck and driving to a business in Pontiac, where he allegedly killed 58-year-old Eriberto Perez. About 20 minutes later, police said he went to a a third business in Waterford. where officials say he asked for someone by name and left. After exchanging fire with Waterford police, he crashed the semi-truck at Frembes and Dixie. He was arrested following a shootout with police.
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According to police, an AK-47 and "multiple, multiple" rounds of magazines were found in the truck.
Griffin was charged in both Wayne and Oakland counties. He was sentenced Monday for the Wayne County charges.
Police say there has been an incident involving Griffin in the past. In November 2017, he returned to the Taylor business since being let go for a payroll dispute and had threatened that same employee with a gun. He was arrested, received multiple charges including assault and weapons charges, but was out on bond.
At the sentencing, Kitchen's sister Margaret, spoke through tears while standing next to Kitchen's wife, Michelle. She says this isn't the first time tragedy has struck the family -- her sister was killed by a hit-and-run driver at 25 years old, and the killer was never found.
"Griffin did not murder my brother, he massacred him," she said.
She says they've had to sit in court, listening to Griffin "whine" about his constitutional rights and his 6th Amendment.
"That gun was his security blanket because he felt too small and inadequate without it," Margaret said.
Griffin declined to speak prior to the sentencing.
Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Talon said that although Griffin will spend the rest of his life in jail, he made the sentences for each charge run consecutively, meaning one after another, versus concurrently, or at the same time. The judge wanted to send a message to people out on bond, including Griffin, that they can't commit more crimes and expect to serve that sentence at the same time as their original.
"You're a very strong family but I can see all the pain and I know your pain will not go away, but you have my condolences. I'm very sorry," Judge Talon said.
Watch the sentencing on FOX 2 News Now below: