Families both bear burdens of tragedy

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 14, 2007

They were once two families that shared handshakes, a drink or two occasionally and some mutual friends.

They now share a tragedy.

The Pringle and Sudderth families gathered in the same courtroom Wednesday to learn the fate of Isaiah Sudderth and consider the fateful event that took the life of Damon Pringle.

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Sudderth was found guilty of shooting Pringle to death by a Lawrence County Common Pleas Court jury Wednesday. The tragedy has left one family grieving a son whose life was cut short by death and another grieving a son whose freedom is being cut short by a prison sentence.

“It’s a sad situation,” said Melissa Thomas, who is the mother of Damon Pringle’s 10-year-old daughter, Shanndon. She said her daughter asks questions about what happened to her father and why he had to die. “This was all in vain. I don’t want to see his (Sudderth’s) family suffer. But justice has been served.”

Still, justice is painful.

“There is no joy in this at all,” Damon’s father, George Pringle said.

Thomas said she has gotten to know some members of Sudderth’s family and feel sorry for them as well. Roger Smith, Sudderth’s attorney, said at one point after the verdict was read that George Pringle apologized to Sudderth.

“This is a mess,” Roger Smith said.

Victoria Murphy, Sudderth’s mother, sees thing a bit differently. She said she thinks the jury’s verdict sends a message to the people who came into Sammons’ house the night of the shooting that it is somehow acceptable to do what they did.

“This shows anyone can come into your home and do whatever they want to do and you can’t defend yourself,” Murphy said. “This shows them this is OK to do, walk into your home and you can get away with it. They beat my son. In my mind, my son was in fear for his life and in fear for his household.”

Murphy said everyone involved in the incident that night had a choice, including those who went into Kimberly Sammons’ residence that night to pursue an argument that had severe consequences.

“My son did not go looking for Damon, Damon came looking for him. My son was not looking for anybody,” she said. “He was at home, he was at peace with the woman he loved and her children and they came and did this to him.”

Murphy said she wants to see charges pressed against the people who were with Pringle that night who came uninvited to Sammons’ house and started the argument that led to the shooting.

“They might think they had done nothing wrong, but they were corporate in this,” she said.

Roxann Sudderth, another family member, said she thought those who got Pringle to go with them that night to the Sammons’ residence “called him to his deathbed.”

“All of this,” she said, “over a cell phone call.”