Instead, 58-year-old Mark Herrington will spend two decades behind bars after accepting a plea deal with the state. He pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter Tuesday morning for his part in the death of his former fiancee Karen Carter.
The mother of three was found strangled in the trunk of her car in early 2007. Days after her body was found, Herrington was arrested and charged.
His attorney, Richard Hagler, says there wasn't enough physical evidence to convict him.
Hagler tells WTVM a fingerprint lifted from Carter's master bathroom did not belong to Herrington nor did a DNA sample he says was found on her body during her autopsy. Hagler says there was also signs of a break-in at Carter's house after her murder.
"It was a true compromise by both sides. There were certain strong points for the state obviously or my client wouldn't have considered it. Certainly, you have mixed emotions but it was Mark's decision and I respect and honor that," Hagler said.
Prosecutors say Karen Carter was leaving Herrington for another man. They say that drove him insane and he killed her in a jealous rage.
"It is a compromise. We think he deserved life but he was willing to take 20 years without parole and that was something we had to take a long, hard look at. We put it in the family's hands and that's what they wanted," said Assistant District Attorney Crawford Seals.
"It was an entirely circumstantial case. There was DNA found that didn't belong to Mister Herrington that was a problem and there were wrinkles to it where they didn't want to chance going to a trial and losing because he would have walked out," Seals added.
"I look at this as a victory because we do have closure a little bit now knowing that he'll be away. I just hope me and my brother and sister can move forward now," the victim's daughter, Kindal Hoffman added.
"It's been a long three difficult years and having Mark Herrington plead guilty, this family can finally put my sister to rest and move on. They'll never have their mother to see them walk down the isle to get married or to see their first grandchildren. I don't think he has any idea the damage he's done," said Carter's sister, Charleen Massey.
The maximum sentence for Herrington's voluntary manslaughter charge was 20 years which he got.
He is getting credit for the nearly three-and-a-half years he has already spent in jail so he will serve close to 17 years in a state penitentiary.