Courts • Man, 24, says death of David Brown was an accident during fight fueled by alcohol.
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The first time John Brown met his brother's new roommate, he was wary.
The man was young, unemployed. He was a stranger to the family.
So, Brown asked Christopher Wiggins to promise that everything would be OK.
On Friday, as Brown watched Wiggins be sent to prison for killing his brother, he said he never should have taken the man's word.
"I forgive Chris for what he did," he told 3rd District Judge Charlene Barlow. "But I will always miss my brother."
Wiggins, 24, pleaded guilty in January to second-degree felony manslaughter and first-degree felony aggravated burglary in the Oct. 15, 2011 killing of 47-year-old David Brown. Wiggins was originally charged with first-degree felony murder.
He was sentenced Friday to serve one to 15 years in prison for manslaughter and five years to life for aggravated burglary. The sentences will run consecutively.
Wiggins, who addressed the court before he was sentenced, apologized to John Brown and the rest of the victim's family. He said it was an accident, the result of an alcohol-fueled feud that went too far.
"Dave was my friend," he said, voice quavering. "I caused his death. I caused so much loss and grief for his family. I'm really sorry."
He said the two drank together, that things got out of hand. But the judge said Wiggins was excusing his behavior.
Before handing down the sentence, Barlow pointed to the steps Wiggins took in the moments before he killed Brown:
Upon learning he had been locked out of their house at 582 E. Carmel Drive (7400 South), he went around back, got a ladder, picked up a rake, broke into a second-story window and then attacked Brown with the rake handle before discarding it and continuing the beating with his hands.
When he was done, she said, Wiggins kicked Brown down the stairs of their split-level home, where police found his body. He was bloody and he wasn't breathing.
"In terms of the gravity of this offense, there is nothing more great than taking a life," Barlow said. "There is nothing anyone can do to restore that life."
According to testimony at a preliminary hearing, Wiggins told police that he and Brown had several ongoing disputes in the four months they were roommates.
Wiggins wanted the home cleaner when his daughter visited and was angry that Brown worked at an alcohol treatment program but drank at home. There were also back-and-forth allegations about stolen property.
About 50 CDs disappeared two days before Brown's death, according to testimony. Wiggins was furious.
Prosecutors said Wiggins tore off a part of his four-poster bead and threatened Brown with it. Brown, fearing for his life, sought a protective order from the court and changed the locks on their home.
That night, Wiggins came back looking for Brown.
He had been drinking all day, Wiggins told the court, he wasn't thinking. His anger took over.
As Brown lay unmoving at the base of the stairs, covered in his own blood, prosecutors said, Wiggins walked outside to smoke a cigarette. He did not call 911.
For John Brown, forgiveness has not been easy. In addition to feeling grief and loss, he said, he's felt betrayed by the man who gave him his word that everything would be fine.
But he perseveres, he said, because it's what his brother would want him to do.
"If you can't forgive somebody, you're not going to move on and live your life," he said. "My brother was an amazing man. He brought light into a room. ... Now we can finally bury him and be at peace."