published Saturday, May 12th, 2012

Chattanooga carjackers get more than 30 years in sentencing

Two men who pleaded guilty to kidnapping random victims downtown and forcing them into the trunks of their own cars were sentenced Friday morning to more than 30 years each.

Chief U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier sentenced Christopher Turner and Jeffrey McClendon Jr., both 21, to different times for the crime.

Neither man made a statement during the hearing, but Collier had a few things to say.

"You're facing a sentence that's going to have a tremendous impact on your life," he told the men. "But you're where you are today because of your own choices."

Collier further explained the "horror" the men put the two victims through in the separate crimes and how they changed the victims' lives forever.

Turner received the mandatory minimum of 32 years, but Collier sentenced McClendon to 37 years. There is no parole in the federal prison system, but both men can appeal the judge's sentences.

Family members of McClendon's wept openly in reaction to the sentence but declined to comment after the hearing.

McClendon's longer sentence arose from his prior criminal history, which included theft, assault and vandalism charges back to age 13, his drug use, which included smoking up to five marijuana joints a day and his seeming denial of responsibility with a last-minute attempt to change his guilty plea and asking for a new lawyer in a hearing on Thursday.

On Aug. 26, 2010, the men, along with Twain Jackson, 21, and Richard L. Hunt, Jr., 19, pistol-whipped then forced Mychael Chunn into the trunk of his own car as the man was leaving work from Buffalo Wild Wings on Market Street.

Hunt is scheduled in state court on the charges on June 19, while Jackson has a hearing scheduled in state court on June 12.

The men took Chunn's wallet and cellphone, drove to his apartment and stole items they later attempted to pawn. They kept Chunn in his trunk for 11 hours, at one point giving him water and noodles, and later releasing him.

Two days later, the group ambushed Joseph Clark as he was walking to the Hunter Museum of American Art, pistol-whipped him and forced him into the trunk of his car.

After about 10 minutes of driving, Clark was able to escape the trunk. The men drove to his apartment and kicked in a neighbor's door, assaulted the sleeping residents and stole items, according to court records.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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