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Man gets 20 years in nightclub robbery

Members of the band Parmalee live in constant fear 10 months after a robbery attempt onboard their recreational vehicle outside a Rock Hill nightclub turned deadly.

"My brother is partially handicapped because of this. He's a drummer and he can barely lift his leg," a tearful Matt Thomas, vocalist and guitarist, told a court Tuesday. "He'll have to deal with this for the rest of his life. We'll have to deal with this for the rest of our lives.

"I'm always looking over my shoulder - thinking I'm going to be attacked."

The Greenville, N.C.-based band was playing at a Cherry Road club near Winthrop University on Sept. 21 when two men tried to enter the band's RV in the club's parking lot and rob them.

One of the robbers pleaded guilty in a York County courtroom Tuesday and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The other armed robber lost his life.

Two members of the band, brothers Scott and Matt Thomas, and someone who worked at The Money were inside the RV around 1 a.m., celebrating after the band's performance.

There was a knock on trailer door, and when it was opened two men with bandannas over their faces entered - one armed with a gun, 16th Circuit Deputy Solicitor Willy Thompson said Tuesday.

That man, Demorrio Burris, 22, held a gun to Matt Thomas' head and demanded money, Thompson said. Burris fired a shot into the floor with co-defendant Dytavis Hinton's gun.

Scott Thomas came from the rear of the vehicle with his own, licensed handgun.

A gunfight ensued. Burris was shot several times, and he died on the steps of the RV. Hinton, now 23, also was shot. He collapsed in the parking lot near the bus.

Band member Scott Thomas, 37, was shot three times - in the chest, abdomen and buttocks. He nearly died.

"This wasn't the drug deal gone wrong," Thompson said. "It was a crime of opportunity. They probably assumed they had just gotten paid. That it was a good time to strike. This is truly a situation of a truly innocent victim."

After nearly five weeks at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte and several surgeries, Scott Thomas is still recovering from his injuries. He has suffered from internal injures, kidney damage and leg infections, Thompson said.

His mother, Annette Corey, said her sons' lives will never be the same.

"I watched my son (Scott) struggle for his life," she said. "That struggle still continues. Our lives have just been changed forever because of a bad choice."

Hinton, 23, pleaded guilty to attempted murder, burglary, attempted armed robbery and criminal conspiracy.

The 20-year term from Judge Thomas Cooper is a no-parole sentence, which means he will serve at least 85 percent of the sentence.

As part of plea negotiations, Thompson recommended Hinton be sentenced to a maximum of 25 years in prison.

Hinton has been in jail since his arrest Sept. 30. He was originally charged with murder and a weapons violation, but those charges were dropped, Thompson said.

Burris and Hinton were with friends drinking at several bars before the robbery, said his attorney Public Defender Harry Dest. They also had used marijuana.

When officers arrived at the club after the shooting and found Hinton bleeding in the parking lot, he initially told officers he was the victim of a robbery.

Dest said the robbery wasn't planned much in advance, and he asked the judge to sentence Hinton to a shorter time in prison and a longer probation period.

Before being sentenced, Hinton apologized to the Thomas and Burris families.

"God gave me a second chance at life," he said. "It was a terrible thing that happened. I know it affected a lot of families. I apologize for what happened."

Thomas was not charged in Burris' death because he was acting in self-defense, prosecutors said.

"I'm not too good," Scott Thomas said during the hearing. "I got a lot of emotions in me. I'm trying to get better."

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