JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — William Merriweather entered a guilty plea Wednesday in court, more than a decade after he reportedly shot and killed two Bessemer bank tellers and seriously injured two others after demanding keys to the vault.
Merriweather’s case has been held up in court for years as his competency to stand trial was a point of contention. Wednesday morning, the judge found Merriweather competent to proceed with the plea and sentencing.
After Merriweather entered his guilty plea, the court took a break before the sentencing portion.
“This has been an emotionally challenging case for all of us … Nothing can erase the pain,” Merriweather’s defense attorney said.
Moments later, Merriweather made a statement, apologizing: “I want to apologize to families and staff members. I’m sorry.”
Eva Lovelady Hudson and Sheila McWaine Prevo were killed during the robbery, and Anita Gordon and Latoya Freeman were injured. Wednesday, the two survivors addressed the court before his sentencing.
“That was the worst day of my life. I struggle with survivor’s guilt. I have no sympathy or empathy for Merriweather. I hope he can feel the pain he caused us throughout the years,” Freeman said. ” You are a cruel and evil person. I hope what you have done will haunt you for the rest of your life.”
“I’ll never forget that day…We were more than coworkers. We were friends. This was family,” Anita Gordan told the court. “It was gruesome, blood everywhere, bodies lying on the floor, people screaming…He came in and he didn’t ask for anything before he started shooting. I stand here 10 years, 2 months and 28 days later still looking for justice. Will justice be served?”
Merriweather had previously entered a plea of not guilty. By entering a guilty plea, Merriweather avoids being sentenced to death.
The husband of slain victim Sheila Prevo addressed the court in a written statement: “I was the one that had to identify my wife and that picture is still in my mind. I lost my wife, soulmate, best friend,” he said. “If I could, I would ask for lethal injection so that Merriweather would no longer be on this Earth.”
Wednesday afternoon, the judge sentenced Merriweather to three consecutive life sentences in prison, plus five years.
“I wish there were some magic words that would make everything okay. I wish I could bring back your loved ones,” Judge Proctor said. “I wish I could say something that would give you answers and closure.”
“Please do not mistake my professional interaction with you as acceptance of what you’ve done,” Proctor addressed Merriweather. “You slaughtered people for no reason other than your own greed.”