CLARKSVILLE, TENN. — The Montgomery County jury took a little more than five hours to reach a verdict in the murder trial of a former Fort Campbell soldier charged with chasing his newly wed wife down and shooting her eight times as she hid in her roommate's bathtub.
At about 5:50 p.m. — minutes before they were to decide to deliberate another day — the jury of nine men and three women reached a verdict.
Nicholas R. Durant, 22, was convicted as charged of first-degree murder.
Seconds after the verdict was read, Durant jumped up from his chair and charged at Assistant District Attorney Helen Young and lead detective DeMone Chestnut as they stood by the prosecution table.
Deputies rushed to grab Durant and quickly led him from the courtroom as the jury, victim's family and his supporters looked on in shock.
"(Expletive) I'm going to kill everyone in here with the last name Young and (inaudible), (expletive)," Durant yelled as he was led out.
It was believed Durant threatened to kill Young and Detective Chestnut.
Because of his behavior, Judge Mike R. Jones' sentenced Durant to the automatic sentence of life in the state penitentiary without him being present.
Young said she was fine Thursday evening and said she was actually glad Durant had his outburst.
"I was very glad. It showed his true colors," Young said. "The jury had a tough decision, with the jury instruction and the laws, and had to sort through it. I don't think it left a doubt in their minds."
Young said she had gratitude for all the witnesses, most of whom traveled from out of town and cooperated fully.
"I'm extremely grateful for the verdict," Young said. "The case itself was not that difficult, but logistics were unbelievable. I'd like to thank Detective DeMone Chestnut, Sgt. Terry Minton, Trooper Mike Tedder - who traveled from North Carolina to testify - the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the medical examiner, Shauna Allman, Officer Scott Beaubien and Donita Cavallero, who all worked hard. Everyone went above and beyond to make this successful."
Following an argument on March 3, 2012, Durant loaded a Tek-9 gun and shot through the front door of his wife Spc. Shardae Wright's apartment at The Grove. He then kicked in the door and chased his wife of seven days into the apartment shooting at her.
Wright ran to her roommate's bedroom, and they hid in the bathroom. Durant then kicked the bathroom door open and shot her eight times. Her roommate was able to run out of the bathroom seconds before the trigger was pulled and heard the shots as she ran to get help.
Durant testified Wednesday that he was drunk and in a state of excitement and passion and "lost it" when he loaded the weapon in the stairwell of her apartment at The Grove, shot her front door 11 times, kicked it in and chased her into her roommates' bathroom. He said he had a calm demeanor and his "kindness had been taken for weakness," and he "lost it" when he shot Wright. He painted Wright as a jealous and physical wife.
Wright's mother, Retha Wright, her sister, Sonya Blanch, and the roommate who Wright spent her last moments of life with, Chavonde Chase, held hands as the verdict was delivered and wept tears of sorrow and joy.
"I forgave Durant," Blanch said before the verdict was handed down. "It wouldn't be in the spirit of Shardea if I didn't forgive him. God won't forgive (us) if (we) don't forgive. Our family put God first. He placed people in our life to help us. He gave us the strength to make it. I forgave Durant for me. I am doing God's will by forgiving him. It took God to get us where we are. He is in the midst, and He will handle it."
Young said she hopes the verdict helped the family continue to work through their grief process.
"You always hope it helps some, but the way he tried to villainize Shardae, I hope they have a form of validation for the person their daughter and sister was," Young said. "She didn't deserve this or bring it on herself."
Chestnut said following the trial he was grateful to District Attorney John Carney Jr. and Captain Gipson, who worked with investigators and prosecutors to get the case tried in Montgomery County.
The case was at one point considered as a case to be turned over for prosecution in the army court, because Durant and Wright were both active duty soldiers. Durant would've faced a maximum 21-year sentence if convicted.
"I feel it was a premeditated murder and should have had a fair trial in our county," Chestnut said.
The trial began Monday morning in Judge Mike R. Jones' court. Thursday it concluded with jury instructions and closing arguments.
Young said Durant acted in premeditation when he chased Wright and shot at her, emptying his gun.
"He thought about it and made a decision when he picked that gun up and walked up the steps. He thought about it when he kicked that door open and shot at her," Young said. "He thought about it when he cornered her in the bathroom. Can you imagine the terror? He made a decision every step of the way. It wasn't a good decision, but it was a decision."
Crystal Myers, assistant public defender, said Durant told them he acted in a state of excitement and passion. Myers said Durant was provoked and Wright had threatened to kill him and had possession of the gun when he took it from her.
"He snapped. He was not free from excitement or passion," Myers said. "What we saw on the witness stand was a man tortured. It's nothing we can do to take this back. He's asking you to find this occurred in the heat of passion. He's not asking to walk out of here. He was provoked. He is guilty of killing her in the heat of passion."
The last words the jury heard before going to deliberate were Young's.
"He thought about it and made his decision," Young said. "... He may wish he could take it back, but he can't, and he meant it when he did it. He killed this woman ... He's guilty of premeditated murder."
Durant will be eligible for parole in 51 years when he 73 years old.