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Convicted murderer leaves courthouse before verdict is read

Published: Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 11:49 PM

Convicted Murderer Leaves Courthouse Before Being Sentenced

A man convicted of murder Friday left a courthouse in Atlanta, before the verdict could be read.

Verlaine Laguerre, 26, was found guilty in the killing of Matthew Hardeman, who was 19 at the time of his death.

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After a long legal battle, Laguerre and Prentice Baker were convicted of Hardeman’s murder Friday and sentenced to life in prison, plus five years. But Laguerre didn't show up to hear the verdict.

“I was just fearful. Just fearful. I just said, ‘Lord have mercy,’” Gloria Hardeman said.

She said that she still has faith that the system will bring complete justice for her and her family. 

“I hope the system continues to work to capture him, that he won’t do no harm to himself or nobody else,” Hardeman said.

The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office said Laguerre's whereabouts are unknown at this time and he is considered a fugitive. 

After so many years of waiting, Hardeman said she will have to wait a little longer to see the man who killed her son behind bars where he belongs. 

“It’s been a long time. Praying and crying. Praying and crying, but like I say, we held on,” Hardeman said.

On Oct. 15, 2011, Hardeman and Laguerre got into a physical fistfight outside Hardeman’s Lakewood Terrace home in southeast Atlanta.

Police said it all started because of "dirty looks" between the two. At the end of the fist fight, Laguerre took off, telling Hardeman he was coming back with his "red eye," referring to his gun.

Shortly after the fight, Laguerre came back with his accomplice, Prentice Baker. When Hardeman appeared, Baker opened fire, hitting him multiple times. Laguerre also shot Hardeman with an assault rifle. Police say a third man, who hasn't been identified yet, also fired shots. In total, Hardeman was shot 50 times. His family found him dead in the front yard of their home.

“He wasn’t just but 19, and he hadn’t begun to start his life, and it’s hurting me dearly," Gloria Hardeman said Friday night. 

Matthew Hardeman made a name for himself as a high school football star at Avondale High School in DeKalb County. He then went to Cal State Fullerton on a football scholarship.

After injuring his knee, he was forced to return home to Georgia. At the time of his death, he was taking criminal justice classes at Georgia State University and preparing to play on the football team the next year.