MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Family members in mourning are now trying to make sense of a court decision that shocked them.
The man charged with killing their loved one is out of jail, and he didn’t have to pay a bond to get out.
A judge released Nicholas Vitatoe on his own recognizance Thursday. The 41-year-old gas station clerk is accused of shooting Marvell Locke in a Circle K parking lot off Highway 64 in Cordova.
“I’m hurt. I’m angry. I’m lost. I’m confused,” daughter Francheskia Locke said. “The judge basically let him go because he had a good military background, and he didn’t have a criminal past background.”
Prosecutors at the hearing argued against the judge’s decision. Francheskia did, too. She wanted Vitatoe to receive as high a bond as possible.
“Y’all gonna let him walk out with no bond,” she said. “That’s not right.”
Police said Vitatoe shot Locke around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday after the 59-year-old came to the store and asked to the clean the parking lot. After watching surveillance video, investigators said Vitatoe called police, then said he wouldn’t wait for authorities and, instead, handle it himself.
Police said a shot was fired after Vitatoe walked into the parking lot out of camera view. He returns to the store seconds later, puts a gun on the counter and calls his boss.
“My daddy didn’t have no gun, no knife,” Francheskia said. “My daddy didn’t run up on you, threaten you. Didn’t do nothing to you.”
Vitatoe called police on Marvell Locke last week, and WREG found that Locke had been arrested at the same store at least three times. His family said he suffered from mental illness.
“Nothing violent,” Francheskia Locke said.
“I feel like it was premeditated murder,” Francheskia Locke said.
WREG went to Vitatoe’s house, but a man in an upstairs window told us to leave. We called the courts and asked if the judge who released Vitatoe had any comment, but we have not heard back.