BELTON — A former Fort Hood soldier was sentenced to life in prison after he confessed on the stand to shooting a fellow soldier in the back during an altercation outside of a Denny’s restaurant in Killeen in 2011.
Michael Fitzgerald Reese, 30, received the maximum possible sentence for killing Spc. Justin Sheldon Richardson, 25, outside of the Denny’s restaurant on Fort Hood Street in the early morning hours of April 2, 2011.
Presiding Judge John Gaunnt sentenced Reese to life after Reese confessed on the stand to the murder, telling the court he shot Richardson twice in the back as Richardson walked away from him.
Prosecutor Ed Vallejo described Richardson as a “peacemaker” in an altercation that began between Reese and a table of patrons at the Denny’s. Richardson helped escort Reese outside of the establishment when Reese opened fire.
Several staff and customers of the restaurant had named Reese as the shooter, identifying him in court during a brief trial in late July that ended abruptly when Reese confessed and entered a guilty plea.
On Monday, Reese’s court-appointed defense attorney Michael White, called several witnesses who pleaded with the court for a lesser sentence.
Several witnesses referred to Reese as Richardson’s “alleged” killer, prompting Vallejo to remind the court on multiple occasions that Reese had just confessed to the crime.
Reese will be eligible for parole in 28 years. He is a former member of the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. The U.S. Army demoted him to private and discharged him in May.