DANVILLE — A 33-year-old Hoopeston man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for the fatal shooting of a former Danville woman in the Fair Oaks public housing complex nearly two years ago.
Vermilion County State's Attorney Jacqueline Lacy said Johnnie Lee Sampson Jr. received the sentence earlier this week after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Mary Thompson. He was also sentenced to a consecutive five-year term, after pleading guilty to a count of aggravated discharge of a firearm, stemming from the same incident.
Sampson must serve 50 percent of the 20-year term and 85 percent of the five-year term. He was credited with time he already served in the county jail.
Ms. Thompson, 30, who was born and raised in Danville, but worked and attended school in Terre Haute, Ind. — was shot in the head while driving into Fair Oaks about 9:40 p.m. on Aug. 5, 2016, while on a visit.
Sampson originally was charged with four counts of first-degree murder.
Though he was caught on video surveillance firing in the direction of the vehicle, Lacy said he pleaded to the lesser charge because he feared for his life and believed the shooting was self-defense.
If the case had gone to trial, Lacy said she would have presented evidence that showed Ms. Thompson turning onto Clyman Lane in a Saturn. Jamal Crump, 23, of Danville, was in the front seat, and Nathan Smalls, also 32, of Danville, was in the back.
"Jamal shoots out the vehicle at Joeviante C. Sims," 22, of Danville, Lacy said, adding that Sims was standing in the opposite direction of the car from Sampson. "Sampson goes behind a tree and starts firing at the vehicle."
Lacy said at least three different types of ammunition were found at the scene. "The bullet fragment found in Mary Thompson's head could not be identified," she said. "So basically, he believed he was in danger and in fear of his life or great bodily harm, even though his fear was unreasonable."