Gail Hough misses the sound of her husband Jack’s laughter. Where she once heard the morning routine of him showering and shaving, there is now deafening silence.
She can still recall the sound of him buffing his shoes each Saturday night, but that touch from Jack’s arm in church is gone.
“This community lost a dear friend, and I lost my Jack,” Gail Hough said.
Gail Hough gave a victim-impact statement for her late husband Monday, May 3, at the sentencing hearing for DeMarvin Bennett, an East Point man convicted April 30 in the fatal shooting of Jack Hough in February 2019 at the CVS on Park Hill Drive in Gainesville. The jury found Bennett guilty of malice murder and three of four felony murder counts.
Gail Hough told Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin about her husband’s integrity and love for family and friends. Within half an hour of returning home from work, it was common to find Jack Hough on the phone checking in on a family member or friend, she said.
Hough, who founded MSE Branded Food Systems, was renowned in Gainesville for his philanthropic efforts.
Gail Hough said the trauma from that night “will always be a part of who I am.”
“Now the new norm is rushing home before dark,” she said. “The new norm is rushing to get the garbage to the street before dark. Even getting in another person’s car is hard for me. The smallest things have become a challenge.”
Assistant District Attorney Kelley Robertson also called on a pair of officers from the Hall County Sheriff’s Office regarding incidents with Bennett during his incarceration.
An officer testified about an Aug. 27 incident when Bennett was allowed to leave his cell to get juice but allegedly refused to return to his cell.
The officer testified Bennett lunged at him and tried to toss him over the railing. After the deputy and an inmate assisting with lunch got Bennett to the ground, the deputy said Bennett tried to get the deputy’s Taser.
Multiple law enforcement witnesses testified during the trial about two .380 handguns found — a Remington in the side pocket of Hough’s car and an Accu-Tek found in a storm drain at the Ridgecrest Apartments less than a mile from the crime scene.
Vanna Kelley of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives testified that the Accu-Tek was the gun used in the shooting.
“At the time, I informed the agent that it’s possible that even though the cartridge case was not fired in the Remington that perhaps one time it had been cycled through the Remington without being fired and then loaded into a second gun,” Kelley testified.
Defense attorney Matt Leipold asked the court to find “as a sentencing fact” that the Accu-Tek was Hough’s gun and that Bennett did not bring that to the scene.
“I don’t know to what extent the court needs to make any finding about the gun, but I would say to make a finding would be contrary to the jury’s verdict, since the jury could not find beyond a reasonable doubt that it was Jack Hough’s gun based on the evidence they heard,” Robertson said.
The jury acquitted Bennett on the robbery count, which alleged Bennett took Hough’s gun, and the felony murder count concerning the alleged robbery.
Gosselin said she felt it was not necessary to make a finding regarding the gun.
Robertson said the only “appropriate way to keep our community safe and to appropriately punish” Bennett was a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Leipold argued for the possibility of parole, citing his client’s documented mental health concerns and that criminal behavior declines with age.
“Giving Mr. Bennett the possibility of parole, which is only a possibility, does incentivize better behavior in prison,” Leipold said.
Gosselin opted for the chance of parole. Bennett will have to serve at least 30 years before being considered.
“He will be a different person” at least 30 years from now, Gosselin said about Bennett. “Whether he’s a better person or a worse person, I don’t know and I won’t know. I won’t be around to know about that.”
Leipold was not immediately available for comment following the hearing.
Previous coverage in the murder trial
- April 26: Jury selection
- April 27: Opening statements and testimony from widow Gail Hough
- April 28: Testimony about guns, crime scene
- April 29: Closing statements
- April 30: Verdict