A Gardnerville woman received 6-20 years in prison for the Dec. 2 fatal shooting of her roommate, Marine Corps veteran Jason Thrift.
“I pray to God that every day you wake up like I do, with your first thought being of Jason,” Peggy Thrift told shooter Nicole Followill, 30, during a victim impact statement. “It’s not right, and it’s not fair. I gave him birth and you took him away from me. You’ve given me and my family a life sentence.”
Followill apologized to Thrift.
“I’m so sorry for the loss of Jason,” she said. “I’m sorry that this pain will never go away.”
Followill and Thrift had attended high school together and had been roommates before in Arizona. Peggy Thrift said her son helped Followill pack up and drove the U-Haul truck to her new home.
District Attorney Mark Jackson made a three-hour presentation with 93 exhibits in the sentencing hearing that took much of Thursday.
Judge Michael Gibbons said the presentation was helpful to him because it put the entire morning that Followill shot Thrift in perspective.
“It was very useful to have this presentation because up to now the picture the court had of Followill was the one that appeared in the newspaper of her looking beaten and bruised,” he said. “If Mr. Thrift had survived this, he might be here now saying he was the victim of abuse. This wasn’t one incident, but a series of incidents.”
Jackson presented evidence that the 33-year-old Thrift had been struck and bitten several times during the fight that lasted much of the morning before finally punching Followill in the face.
Followill was drunk that morning, with a preliminary blood alcohol content of .213. After Thrift walked away from the Toler Lane home they shared, she changed the locks and dragged his belongings out into the yard.
He said the manslaughter charge was based on her reaction to that blow, which was to run into the house and get a Glock handgun.
Defense attorney Derrick Lopez related that a witness to that blow said it lifted Followill off the ground, laying her out, before she got back up and ran in the house to get the gun.
When Thrift followed her into the house, she fired a single shot, striking him in the head and killing him.
Lopez asked that Gibbons sentence Followill to a suspended sentence.
“Part of the real issue here is what do you do when a good person does something bad,” he said. “Nicole is a good person, but she didn’t realize she had a serious alcohol problem. Her memory of the event wasn’t good at the time and that was due to her drinking.”
Two dozen people wrote letters of recommendation for her.
Jackson opposed probation for Followill.
“I don’t know how someone who was on probation for an should get a suspended sentence,” he said. “The deadly weapon enhancement usually is used for other crimes. But of all the crimes when there’s an enhancement, it should be used when the crime results in death.”
Gibbons agreed that Followill didn’t have a serious criminal record.
“She doesn’t have a criminal history until 2013 when her life takes a definite downward spiral due to the use of alcohol,” he said.
Gibbons acknowledged that Followill seemed genuinely sorry, even as early as interviews with investigators the day after the shooting.