GOSHEN -- Bruce White apologized Thursday to the family of Alphonso James, but said he still felt justified in killing James in 2009.
"I'm sorry for they family and they loss, but the decisions I made were the only way I felt I could save my life," White said briefly during his sentencing hearing in Elkhart Circuit Court.
James' aunt, Annette James, said, "I do not believe in the death penalty, but I do believe he needs to get 65 ... years, the most that he can get."
She got her wish from Judge Terry Shewmaker.
Children were a theme during the sentencing. White's attorney, Carl Epstein, argued White's imprisonment will be hard on his four children.
Annette James said her nephew's four children have an even harder time. "My nephew had four kids. You was able to see your four kids, they brought the kids to Atlanta while you was on the run," she said.
David Francisco, a deputy prosecutor, pointed out that the jury didn't buy White's self-defense claims, and brought up testimony from the trial about the number of children put at risk by White, "grave risk to completely innocent people, grave risk to children right outside that apartment."
Shewmaker agreed, saying White showed "reckless disregard for human life. There were many, many people in the area," about 50, with roughly half of them children, the judge said.
Those people were all put at risk when "a veritable rainshower of gunshots occurred" July 25, 2009 at Old Farm Apartments on Elkhart's south side.
According to trial testimony, James' cousin, Daron Tuggle, set up a large drug deal between James and Charles Farrell, III, who brought White with him.
During the deal in an apartment White pulled a gun on James in order to steal the more than four pounds of cocaine, according to testimony. James struggled with White, then backed away before White shot him. That led to a shoot-out between White, Farrell and Noble Dennie, a friend of James and Tuggle.
Tuggle is serving a sentence for his role in the drug deal, and Farrell is serving 63 years in prison for murder for his involvement.
Annette James told White Thursday, "Your momma apologized to me and my family after she seen the evidence and I accepted her apology, because she didn't have anything to do with what you did." The crime has been very hard on her family, she said.
White said he plans to file an appeal.