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Family offers forgiveness as man sentenced for killing grandmother
Ronnie Quqomeki Rucker
Ronnie Quqomeki Rucker

Ronnie Quqomeki Rucker didn’t know his grandmother Lula Bell Howard, 70, had died as he talked with investigators after he stabbed Howard at her home.

“Is she all right?” Rucker asked.

“No. She’s not, buddy,” said Dan Franklin with the Hall County Sheriff’s Office.

Rucker then broke down crying before saying “I didn’t mean to” in the video tape played at his sentencing.

Rucker, 33, pleaded guilty Tuesday to the May 2 stabbing before Superior Court Judge Bonnie Oliver and family members. He received a life sentence with a chance of parole.

Rucker was indicted June 19 on charges of malice murder, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, possession of a knife during the commission of a crime and two counts of malice murder. The first count, malice murder, was attached to a life sentence, with the assault, battery and other charges merged.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Wanda Vance began the presentation of the state’s evidence, discussing the six stab wounds found on Howard. Neighbors told authorities that Rucker and Howard argued, Vance said, telling Howard to kick Rucker out of the house if he was not respectful.

“We argue but she pretty much just — she stay on the phone 24/7 and she always talking about people and stuff,” Rucker said in his interview with authorities. “And I be trying to tell her you can’t just talk about somebody and they right here in the house ‘cause you don’t know what kind of … mind frame they might be in.”

Vance and Northeast Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh presented the full interview — save five or so minutes — Rucker had with Sheriff’s Office investigators.

After another argument about Rucker’s girlfriend, he picked up a knife off the bar and stabbed his grandmother, according to his interview. Rucker called 911 on his grandmother’s phone, he said, before washing his hands.

Howard’s sisters, Alpha Pittman and Mary Rucker, spoke to Oliver and at times directly to Ronnie Rucker.

“I love you just as your grandmother did,” Pittman said to Ronnie Rucker during her speech.

Pittman said she would forgive him, hoping he gets the help he needs.

Family members remembered Howard for her love and her giving nature, with her death hanging heavy on Mary Rucker’s heart. With tears in his eyes, Ronnie Rucker turned to his family to speak with them before the sentencing.

“I just wish I could have just left,” he said, telling his family of how he thinks about this every second of the day.

A voice in the courtroom spoke out, “We forgive you.”

Because Rucker made no effort to hide the knife nor hide the crime, Oliver decided against giving Rucker a life sentence without the chance of parole. Rucker’s charge of possession of a knife during the commission of a crime would be a probation sentence, should Rucker ever be paroled, to allow two levels of oversight.

“Don’t let (Howard) die in vain,” Oliver said.