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Life sentence for Dowagiac killer

Published 1:17pm Friday, June 1, 2012

CASSOPOLIS — A Dowagiac man convicted in April of fatally shooting his girlfriend’s uncle in the first degree will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Twenty-one-year-old Jaren Wade was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole by Cass County Circuit Court Judge Michael Dodge.

A Cass County jury found Wade guilty April 25 of all charges in connection with the murder of Darius Nickens, 28. The most serious charge, first-degree murder, carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison — the maximum penalty allowed in the state of Michigan.

Nickens was sitting in a vehicle in a Dowagiac driveway when Wade shot him three times in the back in the afternoon of April 13, 2011. Dodge said the fatal shot pierced Wade’s lung, heart and liver.

“This is a very tragic situation. A 28-year-old man has lost his life out of a senseless act. His children will grow up without a father and his death leaves a significant void in the Nickens family,” Dodge said. “It is also tragic that you (Wade), at age 21, will now spend the rest of your life in prison.”

During sentencing, Nickens’ mother called Wade a coward for killing her son.

“When you go to prison I hope when you are there you are very popular there,” Nickens’ mother said. “I hope everyone loves you there and you get what you deserve. I don’t hate you; I hate the act.”

Prosecutor Victor Fitz said people should have sympathy for the victim, not Wade.

“Jaren Wade is going to have 50 to 70 years on this earth,” Fitz said. “He will have the opportunity to read, to educate himself, to laugh and cry … what does the family of Darius Nickens have? They have only cold granite to visit.”

Wade’s attorney, Edwin Johnson III, said his client’s actions were based in fear. He asked the judge to sentence Wade to life with the possibility of parole.

Wade apologized to the Nickens family, saying he wasn’t looking for trouble or to kill anyone.

“All I can do is apologize. I didn’t mean it. I reacted out of emotion. Me carrying a gun, that was to protect myself,” he said.

The last person to be sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder in Cass County was Robert Leamon III, of Niles, who was convicted of killing his pregnant girlfriend and burying her in the yard of a family member. He was sentenced Feb. 14, 2000.

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