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Army sergeant sentenced to life in Colo. slaying

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DAN ELLIOTT | December 13, 2012 11:55 PM EST | AP

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FORT CARSON, Colo. — An Army sergeant has been sentenced life in prison with the possibility of parole for the slaying of a fellow soldier in the barracks at Fort Carson in Colorado.

A military panel convicted Sgt. Vincinte Jackson of unpremeditated murder Thursday in the Jan. 8 death of Spc. Brandy Fonteneaux. The 28-year-old soldier from Houston was found dead in her barracks room, stabbed 74 times.

Jackson faced up to life in prison without parole. Jackson, who testified during sentencing, says he doesn't know why he killed Fonteneaux. Prosecutors didn't immediately know how many years Jackson would serve before he is eligible for parole.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

A weeping Army sergeant apologized to the family of another soldier he admitted killing after a military panel convicted him of unpremeditated murder Thursday.

Sgt. Vincinte Jackson said he doesn't know why he killed Spc. Brandy Fonteneaux, 28, of Houston. She was found dead in her barracks room on Jan. 8 , stabbed 74 times.

"I am horrified by what happened. I will be forever haunted by what happened. ... It's only fair that I continue to have nightmares about what I've done," Jackson said.

His testimony came at the end of an emotional sentencing hearing that included statements from both Jackson's and Fontenaux's families.

The same panel of eight soldiers who convicted Jackson will decide his sentence. The sentencing range for unpremeditated murder ranges from no punishment up to life in prison without parole.

The panel – the equivalent of a jury in a civilian trial – convicted Jackson after 2 1/2 hours of deliberations. It also acquitted Jackson of premeditated murder, which carries a sentence of up to life in prison without parole.

Prosecutors asked for life without parole, while Jackson's defense attorneys asked for 28 years. The panel began deliberating the sentence late Thursday.

At the end of the court-martial, Capt. Jeremy Horn, one of Jackson's defense lawyers, told the panel that a combination of heavy drinking and a prescription antidepressant left Jackson unable to control his own actions or form any kind of plan to commit murder.

There was some testimony that Jackson was an alcoholic. But Horn said Jackson was only an occasional drinker and that he downed three-quarters of a bottle of whiskey the night before Fonteneaux's death. He said Jackson was trying doors in a corridor and walked in Fonteneaux's barracks room because it was unlocked.

"Sgt. Jackson was on auto-pilot. ... He felt like he was watching himself," Horn said.

The prosecutor, Capt. Jason Quinn, scoffed at the defense's claim, saying Jackson made a conscious decision to leave his room and walk to Fonteneaux's, where he stood over her while she slept.

After stabbing and slashing Fonteneaux, "he decides to reach down and choke her until she is no longer in the misery that he put her in," Quinn said.

Quinn put a photo on courtroom TV screens that showed Fonteneaux after she was killed, sprawled on the floor of her room, partially unclothed with a tangled bedsheet covering part of her body.

"Sgt. Jackson wasn't negligent," Quinn said. "He intended to do what he did. He intended to kill Spc. Fonteneaux."

Jackson, an eight-year Army veteran from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., was with the 576th Engineer Company, 4th Engineer Battalion. Fonteneaux was a food operations specialist in the 4th Engineer Battalion.

Fonteneaux knew Jackson but they were not close, according to the aunt who raised her, Bevenly Thomas. Fonteneaux had told her family that Jackson confided in her about his crumbling marriage.

Thomas said she asked Fonteneaux if she and Jackson had a romantic relationship, and she replied, "No, Mom, he's married. He's too old."

Jackson's father, Willie Jackson, broke down as he told the panel he had never known his son to be violent. He said that he's still in denial about what happened.

Fontenaux's mother, Verona Fonteneaux, told the panel that she still looks at pictures of her daughter and frequently visits her Facebook page. She said the family isn't decorating for Christmas this year.

"We're still getting together as a family, but there's going to be one that's missing," she said.

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