Aaron Leroy Caldwell started his sentencing in Boyd Circuit Court Thursday with a question.

“Can I turn this around?” he asked Judge Marc I. Rosen, referring to the podium the 19-year-old was standing behind.

After getting Rosen’s permission, Caldwell shifted the podium to face not the judge, but the family members of his victim.

Last month, Caldwell pleaded guilty to one count of murder and five counts of wanton endangerment, stemming primarily from the Nov. 29 shooting death of 19-year-old Ashland resident Whitni Self.

Self was killed when a bullet struck her in the head, after Caldwell had randomly fired a handgun four times at a Blackburn Avenue apartment from the street.

Self was visiting friends at the residence. Caldwell has said he didn’t mean to hit anyone inside, but simply meant to scare some of the people he knew were inside.

“I would like to take this time to make a public apology to the Self family for this tragic accident that I have caused, knowing and understanding that my apology can never be enough to heal the wound,” Caldwell said, reading from a prepared statement. “But, as time passes by, I hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive.”

Public Defender Brian Hewlett, who represented Caldwell, said his client was truly remorseful. He said Caldwell was surrounded by bad influences, and was caught up in a “chain of events” that would eventually culminate in Self’s murder.

“Aaron did something really, really stupid,” Hewlett said. “Whitni was the one person in that apartment who was innocent in all of this.

“The other people in that apartment were into some bad stuff ... And all the other people who made this what it is are out free.”

Rosen agreed with Hewlett, at least on the basis of the crime.

“This was a crime of pure stupidity,” the judge said.

Several of Whitni’s family members addressed Caldwell before final sentencing, including her mother, Kandi Self, who sobbed as she spoke.

“When you made the choice that fateful night to carry, aim and pull the trigger of your gun, you destroyed many people’s lives forever, including your own,” Kandi Self said. “Because of your actions, I will never get another hug from my daughter.

“You have, by your actions, sentenced us to life; life without Whitni.”

Rosen said he hopes Caldwell will be an example for others that “what you did will not be tolerated.

“This family has only told you a small part of what they are feeling,” he said. “There’s no way they could tell you everything that’s in their hearts ... May this family find it in their hearts to feel that something good will come from this tragic loss.”

Caldwell was sentenced to 25 years in prison. As a violent offender, he must serve 85 percent of the sentence before he is eligible for parole.

BEN FIELDS can be reached at bfields@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2651.

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