Kenneth Whitton loved helping people and rescuing animals before the 77-year-old was brutally beaten last year inside his Spokane home, succumbing to his injuries a month later at the hospital.
George Sessions, 45, was sentenced Friday to 8½ years in prison for first-degree manslaughter after Spokane County Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno said Sessions showed no remorse for the killing.
The week of the assault, Sessions visited Whitton’s house, 730 E. Rockwell Ave., and accused him of talking about his family, Whitton told police in court documents. The accusation kicked off a brutal 12-hour assault, where Sessions would knock Whitton to the ground, help him up, then assault him again, Whitton told police.
At one point, Sessions jumped up and down on Whitton’s back, he told police.
Whitton said Sessions told him, “I’m in charge now, I make the decisions, not you, I might let you live another day, I might not,” according to court documents.
Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Hannah Stearns said Friday that Sessions’ assault left Whitton with nearly every one of his ribs broken, a broken back and partial paralysis.
Stearns said Sessions lived alone and his health was already declining at the time. She said he suffered greatly from his injuries and the infections that followed before dying.
“This was calculated, this was intentional and this was brutal,” Stearns said.
First responders were called to Whitton’s home twice on Feb. 1, 2022, according to court documents. Whitton told responders both times Sessions attacked him, but he declined to go to the hospital the first time.
Sessions made at least the first call and claimed during the call that Whitton fell and couldn’t get up.
Whitton told police at the hospital that he and Sessions had been friends for six or seven years, and that Sessions used to be his neighbor.
Due to his age, Whitton needed help around the house, so he gave Sessions his truck in exchange for Sessions taking him to the store and helping out when needed, according to court documents.
Stearns showed a video to the court Friday of Whitton lying in his hospital bed before he died saying Sessions “ruined my life” and needed to be “put away.”
“He’s a psycho,” Whitton said. “He’s dangerous, and he’s going to kill somebody. He tried to kill me.”
Moreno listened to 15 victim impact statements Friday.
Bonnie Whitton-Pearce, Kenneth Whitton’s niece, said her uncle lived in Spokane the past 30 years. He never married and didn’t have children.
He served honorably in the military as an Army medic and traveled Europe, sharing amazing stories of the places he’d been.
She said he was kind, smart, had a great sense of humor and loved animals.
“He took almost every stray dog in that he found,” Whitton-Pearce said.
He also tried to help people in need, believing everyone deserved a second chance, which ended up being a mistake with Sessions.
“No person should ever be abused like my elderly uncle,” she said. “No family should have to watch one of their own suffer like me and my family have.”
Jennifer Whitton-Cruise, another one of Kenneth Whitton’s nieces, said her uncle’s stories were engaging and filled with laughter.
“He was loving, funny and an engaging uncle,” she said. “He made me feel accepted and loved. He was there for us when we needed him.”
She said he made a Thanksgiving turkey for his family even though he was a vegetarian.
She also said he gave troubled people a second chance and had an open-door policy for anyone.
“George is a predator who lied to him and gained my vulnerable uncle’s trust,” Whitton-Cruise said.
Sessions was initially charged with second-degree murder, but Stearns said the charge would have been extremely difficult to prove at trial.
Sessions, who wore yellow Spokane County Jail clothing, pleaded Friday to first-degree manslaughter. Stearns asked that Moreno impose the high end of the standard sentencing range, or 8½ years.
Sessions’ attorney, Steve Graham, recommended the low end, or 6½ years.
Graham cited his client’s limited criminal history, including no previous violent crimes, for the lighter sentence.
“I don’t know what happened on those days in question, but I do believe my client is taking responsibility and realizes he’s got an addiction and is going to stay away from drugs,” Graham said.
When asked if Sessions had any remarks for the court, Sessions told Moreno his attorney had covered things well.
Moreno said Sessions hadn’t shown remorse, nor said sorry for his actions, in part leading her to sentence Sessions to the high end of the standard range.
Whitton-Pearce wrote in a text after the hearing that the family was satisfied that Sessions received the high end of the sentencing range. She also thanked the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office for their efforts.
“It was disappointing that he didn’t apologize or show any sign of remorse for his murder,” she wrote.
Sessions will serve three years of community custody when he is released from prison. Restitution in the case is to be determined.