A man prosecutors called a serial murderer was found guilty Thursday of three separate slayings and was sentenced to three consecutive life terms in prison.
"You have distinguished yourself by some really predatory acts," Chatham County Superior Court Chief Judge Perry Brannen Jr. told Edward Charles Wilkins Jr. before announcing the sentences. "These are three different acts."
Sentencing followed shortly after a jury of six men and six women returned convictions on charges of malice murder in the slayings of Charles Bolden, Jonandrea Wiggins and Jan Pringle.
Jurors also convicted Wilkins on two aggravated assault charges in the shooting of a 45-year-old woman.
It took jurors less than two hours to reach their verdicts.
Testimony showed Wilkins used a 9 mm handgun to kill Bolden as well as a man dressed as a woman, and two other women, apparently after seeking out prostitutes in westside Savannah.
"I told you in opening statements Edward Charles Wilkins Jr. is a serial killer, and he is," Chief Assistant District Attorney David Lock told jurors in his closing arguments Thursday.
"The defendant is one sick human being," he said. "I don't mean he's mentally ill. He basically didn't give a damn."
Evidence showed that each victim was shot multiple times. Condoms were found at the sites where two of the victims' bodies were discovered.
"It's not the sex," Lock said. "It's the violence. That's where his gratification came from."
Lock told jurors the victims' lifestyles were not at issue.
"They apparently made their living having to prostitute themselves, maybe drugs," Lock said. "But, they're still human beings. They deserve our protection."
Lock relied on evidence linking the weapon to Wilkins, evidence that matched the condoms to the defendant's DNA and a taped interview with police during which Wilkins admitted his participation.
"He confessed to the crimes," Lock said. "It was accurate because it matched the evidence."
In addition to the life terms, Brannen tacked on five years, to run consecutively, for possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.
The judge added another 20 years to run concurrently for an aggravated assault on a woman who tearfully testified that Wilkins raped her and shot her five times.
The indictment did not include a rape count.
The firearms violation was included with each of the murder counts.
Because jurors convicted Wilkins on the malice murder counts, they did not have to consider alternative charges of felony murder.
At sentencing, the two aggravated assault convictions were merged into one.
Sheree Lipscomb, director of public relations for the state Board of Pardons and Paroles, said by law, Wilkins will be eligible for parole. But that likely won't happen for 14 years, when Wilkins' case first becomes eligible for reviewed, she said.
"It's very unlikely he will be released," Lipscomb said. "There's certainly the possibility he may not receive parole."
Defense attorney Charles Grile described the surviving victim as the "bedrock of the state's case" and argued that her testimony changed.
The woman "changed her story in 2007 (at trial) from what she said in 2000 and 2003," Grile told jurors.
"My client was never positively identified about anything," Grile said.
He also challenged the defendant's statements to police.
"He was scared," Grile said, suggesting Wilkins' statements were coerced. "There's reasonable doubt in every area."
A Chatham County Superior Court jury Thursday convicted Edward Charles Wilkins Jr. on:
Count 1: Malice murder by shooting Charles Bolden on Oct. 15, 1999.
Count 3: Possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime in Bolden's slaying.
Count 4: Aggravated assault by shooting a 45-year-old woman, July 16, 2000.
Count 5: Aggravated assault by shooting the same victim with intent to murder.
Count 6: Possession of a firearm during the commission of those crimes in the assault.
Count 7: Malice murder by shooting Jonandrea Wiggins with a gun on Nov. 26, 2000.
Count 9: Possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime in Wiggins' slaying.
Count 10: Malice murder by causing the death of Jan Pringle by shooting her Dec. 25, 2000.
Count: 12: Possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime in Pringle's slaying.
Jurors were not required to consider counts 2, 8 and 11 - each for felony murder - because they convicted on the malice murder counts.