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Eureka >> The 31-year-old man convicted last month of second degree murder of an Alderpoint resident was sentenced to 40 years to life in state prison with the possibility of parole during a sentencing hearing at the Humboldt County Superior Courthouse on Wednesday, March 11.

Family and friends of the murder victim, 49-year-old Alderpoint Neil Eugene Decker, were present during what became an emotional hearing and spoke about the impacts Decker’s life and loss has had on them.

“Part of me died with him that day,” a letter from Decker’s mother Darlynn Tolman stated, read by Assistant District Attorney Kelly Neel due to Decker’s mother being too upset to read it herself. She wrote that Decker was her only son.

Brown was arrested in July on suspicion of two fatal shootings that occurred in the Alderpoint area within a week’s time. Alderpoint resident Neil Decker, 49, was fatally shot in the chest at a residence on the 2000 block of Rancho Sequoia Drive in the Southern Humboldt area around 10:50 p.m. on July 18 and died in a helicopter while being taken to a hospital. Scott Johnson, 57, was found dead with gunshot wounds on a Rancho Sequoia area roadway on the evening of July 21 after several gunshots were reported. A witness had told sheriff’s office deputies that Johnson was one of a group of citizens who had gone to look for Brown. The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team was deployed in the area on July 22 at 5 a.m. and found Brown about one hour later. Brown was only charged with murdering Decker.

Brown’s request to reduce his conviction of 2nd degree murder to voluntary manslaughter was denied by Judge John T. Feeney.

“The jury’s verdict was not contrary to law or evidence,” Feeney said.

Feeney imposed the maximum 15 years to life sentence for Brown’s second degree murder conviction and imposed a consecutive sentence of 25 years to life for the attached special allegation of use of a firearm that results in great bodily injury or death. The 20-year-to-life sentence that would have come with Brown’s second special allegation of use a firearm during the commission of a felony was stayed by Feeney. Brown was also sentenced to pay over $12,200 in court fees and restitution fines with about $2,000 going to Tolman.

Brown stood watching in handcuffs and garbed in an orange jail jumpsuit while six victim impact statements were heard or were read by Neel due to the family members’ intense grief. Neel herself choked up while reading the statement written by Decker’s mother, whom she comforted while the statement was read.

After the statement was read, Tolman spoke directly to Brown.

“What I need to say to you motherf—– is I hope you rot in hell,” she said before sitting in the audience and beginning to sob.

Other family members such as Decker’s nephew Michael Cuervo said they lost more than an uncle.

“I will no longer have a father figure in my life, a confidant, a friend,” Cuervo said, stating that the impacts of Decker’s death are “limitless.”

Carol Cuervo said she would never forget the day she found out her brother had been killed.

“I relive my brother’s final moments as if I were there,” she said.

Decker’s niece Darlynn Cuervo said she remembered how her uncle would call her while she was going through a difficult medical issue to see how she was doing. Now, Cuervo said the family is “forced” to hear “over and over” her uncle’s final words after he was shot once in the chest with a shotgun: “He shot me in the f—— heart.”

Brown stood with an impassive face watching as each of the statements were read, occasionally exchanging glances at some of the other inmates in the courtroom — mainly Garberville murder suspect Benjamin Jasper Carter whom he nodded to and smiled at when leaving the courtroom.

As he left the courtroom, Brown made a peace sign with his hand and smiled at the rows of Decker’s friends and family, who replied heatedly.

“My sympathies to Mr. Decker’s family,” Feeney said after the sentencing.

Will Houston can be reached at 707-441-0504.

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