Life in Prison for Killer of Taylor County Teacher

Garrett Ashton Arrowood
Posted at 5:00 PM, Apr 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-27 19:06:42-04

PERRY, FL (WTXL) -- Garrett Arrowood has been sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his aunt, Taylor County teacher Shelly Strickland.

The sentence came down Wednesday, after he was found guilty of first-degree murder, armed burglary and dealing in stolen property last week. As part of a deal to have a six-person jury during the trial, the death penalty was not an option.

Arrowood was also sentenced to two concurrent 15-year terms at the Department of Corrections for the two lesser convictions.

Strickland, a longtime educator and administrator in Taylor County, was found shot to death inside her car at her residence on Osteen Road in Perry on June 24, 2015.

During Arrowood's sentencing, his family argued the trial didn't tell the whole picture.

"I don't feel like Garrett has had a fair trial," said Michael O'Steen, Strickland's father. "I really don't."

"I can tell you, with God as my witness, I would not defend my son if I felt like he was guilty of murdering my sister," said Lisa Arrowood, Garrett's mother and Strickland's only sister.

For the first time, Garrett Arrowood addressed the court.

"I totally maintain my innocence, Your Honor," he said, "and I just wanted you know to know that on the record. I had nothing to do with this, Your Honor."

But not everyone in the family sided with Arrowood. Strickland's daughter Jessica told the court her mother's life "was more valuable than arrowheads and guns."

"Life is decided by our choices," she said. "We wake up everyday with the choice to do right or wrong. Those who do wrong should be held accountable for their actions."

The defense filed a motion for a new trial, claiming the testimony of some witnesses lacked credibility, but the judge dismissed the motion.

Arrowood's attorney Baya Harrison has verbally informed the prosecution of his intent to appeal the court's decision. The defense has 30 days to officially file.

A trial date has been set for a second suspect in Strickland's murder.

Rodney Whiddon will stand trial on June 20th. His son Manden is also charged in the murder and could be tried together or separately.