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The Shawnee News-Star
  • Defendant sentenced to life without parole in Pottawatomie County homicide

  • An Oklahoma City man who at the end of his jury trial last month chose to plead guilty to murder charges before the jury could deliberate his fate learned Wednesday that he will spend the rest of his life in prison.
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  • An Oklahoma City man who at the end of his jury trial last month chose to plead guilty to murder charges before the jury could deliberate his fate learned Wednesday that he will spend the rest of his life in prison.
    James Isaac South, 36, appeared in Pottawatomie County District Court Wednesday for formal sentencing on charges relating to the 2012 homicide of Albert Rider, 53, of Norman.
    South was sentenced by District Judge John Canavan to serve life without the possibility of parole on a first-degree murder charge, and also was sentenced on related charges.
    For conspiracy to commit burglary, South was sentenced to four years with the Department of Corrections, and he received a 20-year sentence for first-degree robbery.
    In addition, a six-year sentence for burglary will run consecutive to the life without parole murder sentence, but concurrently with the other two counts.
    During his trial last month, South took the witness stand and testified. Later that day, in what was an unexpected turn of events after the defense rested its case, South's attorney, Cregg Webb, said South was worried about the next life and made a decision.
    South recanted his earlier testimony from the trial and first asked to speak to District Attorney Richard Smothermon, and then to the family, which resulted in him speaking directly with the victim's son, Rich Rider.
    Rich Rider said South told him what happened the day his father was killed Oct. 8, 2012.
    "He said it was exactly how the district attorney had the case presented," Rich Rider told the News-Star, adding he and South prayed together during their conversation, with South choosing to enter a guilty plea in the case.
    Just before court reconvened for South to make that official plea, Rich Rider, surrounded by family members, approached the defendant, shook his hand and thanked him for stepping up and taking responsibility for his father's death.
    "It's one of those days you can't explain," Rich Rider said after leaving the courtroom. "It's totally a God-given day — he had his hand in this whole thing."
    South was one of three defendants charged in the shooting death of Albert Rider, a 1977 Bethel High School graduate who worked as an electrician.
    The investigation into this case began the morning of Oct. 8, 2012, after Albert Rider, suffering from a gunshot wound to the chest, crashed his vehicle into a pipe fence and gate at a Pottawatomie County residence on New Hope Road. He later died from his wounds.
    Earlier that day, Jane Rider, Albert's wife of just nine days, returned to their rural Cleveland County home to discover several items missing in a burglary.
    She called her husband, who was on his way home. Rich Rider said his father stopped at a nearby store to see if anyone had purchased items with a lot of stolen change, which was among items taken from the residence.
    Page 2 of 2 - Albert Rider then came across two men, South and Bradley A. Keith, 29, after noticing Keith was wearing his jacket that was taken from the home, Rich Rider said.
    Albert Rider confronted the two men about the burglary and a brutal fight ensued, the son reported.
    After talking directly with South about what happened, Rich Rider said while he learned his father put up quite a fight, he also confirmed it was the gunshot by South that was the fatal blow for his dad.
    Keith has already been sentenced to 35 years in prison on charges relating to this case. He remains jailed at the Pottawatomie County Public Safety Center awaiting transfer to the Department of Corrections.
    A third suspect, Michael Preston Choate, 25, also is charged with murder in this case and he remains jailed without bond while his case is progressing.
    South will remain jailed in the Pottawatomie County Public Safety Center until he is transferred to a state penitentiary to begin serving his sentencing.

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