Deborah Jencsok nodded slightly as Judge Paul McMurdie sentenced Michael Morton to 20 years in prison for his involvement in the shooting that killed her husband, Michael.
But the pain of seeing her husband stumble into the house, shot once in the back, and her frantic attempts to help him while talking with the 911 operator won’t go away, even now with the last of the four people involved heading off to prison.
“It never goes away,” Jencsok said after the sentencing Tuesday in Maricopa County Superior Court.
During the sentencing in McMurdie’s chambers, she struggled through tears to explain her feelings.
“They shot him in the back. He didn’t do anything to deserve this. The memory of that night will never leave me. No one should ever be killed in their own home or watch someone they love die,” she said.
But that’s exactly what she experienced on Aug. 22, 2006, when four teens in a car were looking for a few quick bucks from an armed robbery or home invasion, according to prosecutors. The teens saw 47-year-old Michael Jencsok standing in the driveway of his home in the 5000 block of East Paseo Way and, thinking he was on the phone to police, shot him in the back.
The trigger man, Deon Powell, now 20, is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder.
Last week, Andre McKee, now 19, was sentenced to 17 years in prison, for second-degree murder.
And Jessica Zambrano, now 21, the driver who never left the car and cooperated with the authorities, is serving a 10-and-a-half-year sentence for manslaughter.
When police questioned Morton, now 19, he quickly confessed and told police about the other three in the car that night and agreed to cooperate.
But when the trial of McKee grew closer, Morton got what his attorney, Michael Bresnehan, called “wobbly feet,” and declined to be interviewed by county attorneys.
“He had a genuine concern for his safety, and he still does now,” Bresnehan said.
Morton spoke briefly before being sentenced.
“I didn’t want nobody to get hurt that night. I’m honestly sorry,” Morton said. “I wish I could do more.”
McMurdie said he was shocked at the idea of the sanctuary of a home being violated by the teens. He was also disappointed that Morton was reluctant to cooperate with authorities and testify against McKee as required by the plea agreement.
When McMurdie announced the sentence, Morton sat quietly and closed his eyes for a moment.
Morton will have spent more than half of his life behind bars when he is released sometime in 2026.