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Man gets 62 years in '08 nightclub death

Jason Cruz won't see a parole board for about 62 years under a sentence for murder imposed Friday by a Sedgwick County district judge.

"You will be a very old man," Judge Ben Burgess told Cruz, convicted of the 2008 killing of 21-year-old Larry Barnett outside a Wichita nightclub.

"Is that supposed to be funny?" Cruz, 28, retorted to the judge, as sheriff's deputies closed nearer to the podium.

"No, it's just the truth," Burgess said.

Burgess gave Cruz life in prison with no chance of parole for 50 years for shooting Barnett outside Lightning Joe's club near Kellogg and Ridge Road.

But Cruz already owed 10 years on a previous conviction for failing to register as a violent offender, which put him on parole at the time of the shooting.

Burgess tacked that onto the so-called Hard 50, then added another 23 months for being a felon carrying a firearm.

That will mean Cruz won't have a shot at parole unless he lives to be about 90.

Defense attorney Tim Frieden argued that the standard sentence of 25 years to life was adequate.

"He didn't even know my brother's name when he killed him," Lotoya Barnett said, tears rolling down her eyes outside of the courtroom. "The only reason Larry was there that night was to celebrate his girlfriend's birthday."

When another man started bothering that girlfriend, witnesses said, Larry Barnett told him to stop.

That man was a friend of Jason Cruz, who proceeded to pull out a semiautomatic rifle and fire it at least 23 times. Barnett was hit 13 times, police said.

"At best, this was an argument, and at worst a fistfight," prosecutor Marc Bennett told the judge in asking for 50 years without parole.

Cruz continued to protest his innocence, saying his fingerprints weren't found on the gun.

But Burgess pointed out that an eyewitness saw Cruz pull the trigger, the murder weapon was found under the seat of his car and his DNA was on the trigger.

"In 39 years (working as a lawyer and judge), I've never seen a case where the evidence was more overwhelming," Burgess said.

Eugene Holloman, Barnett's father, said he hoped Cruz's sentence would give others pause before they pulled out a gun.

"I forgive him for what he's done, but he needs to pay for what he's done," Holloman said. "We live in a world where people don't try to reason anymore. They turn to the gun. I hope Mr. Cruz will realize he tore up my life."

Added Beverly Holloman: "I'm a mother. I cry every day. I don't sleep. I've lost my son, my baby boy."

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