In the end, the defense won a war of attrition after two sets of jurors deadlocked on whether their client, Austin Tybre Ford, 22, fatally shot his friend Tori Lang, 18, in the head. Prosecutors in Gwinnett County, Georgia, on Wednesday, announced they were not seeking a third trial on the murder charge.
This paved the way for Judge Deborah R. Fluker to sentence Ford on the charges that jurors in his first trial did convict him of. Ford must spend 10 years in prison — with credit for time served — then 10 years on probation for charges of concealing the death of another, theft by taking of a motor vehicle, and theft by taking of a firearm.
Authorities said Ford in July 2021 shot Lang in the head in the middle of the night and left her remains there. Police only managed to identify the victim by releasing pictures of her tattoos.
Ford then allegedly burned out her car and left it in a nature preserve, prosecutor Norris Lewis told jurors in the second trial.
Ford claimed that Lang shot herself in the head and that he had attempted to stop her.
But as pointed out in court on Wednesday, Ford never stepped forward regarding how she was killed and in fact, went to her funeral.
Tamara Lang, who was the victim’s aunt and godmother, delivered an impassioned, heart-wrenching speech in which she called out Ford. She said he took pictures in front of Lang’s horse and carriage ride as if it were a “fashion show red carpet.”
“Who as a friend could leave a friend laying, killed in a park with a gunshot to the head, and for months lying to us,” she said. “Lying to us, and point the blame at other people. No friend would ever do anything like that.”
Prosecutor Lewis said Ford committed the crime in a “heartless” manner.
The medical examiner who testified at Ford’s trials said Lang’s manner of death was undetermined — the examination did not show conclusively if she was killed by homicide or suicide.
Defense lawyer Lawrence Lewis told Fluker she had to sentence his client only on the charges ending in conviction. Prosecutors did not charge Ford with lying, he said.
Lang’s father and namesake, Tory Lang, dismissed Ford’s suicide claim as “nonsense.”
“Everything Tori ever did in her life, we celebrated, and not on a small level,” her grandmother, Tanya Lang, said.
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