A 31-year-old Palestine man arrested in 2012 after boarding a school bus loaded with children and attempting to drive away to evade arrest was sentenced to 80 years in prison on 20 counts of aggravated kidnapping Monday by an Anderson County jury.
The jury, made up of six men and six women, took one hour to convict Cedrick Brenard Lewis of Palestine Monday morning and 20 minutes to sentence him to 80 years in prison on 20 counts of aggravated kidnapping for $10,000 fine for each count. He also received two years on a state jail felony for unlawful use of a motor vehicle.
“We asked for 50 years, but the jury came back with 80 years. The jury sent a clear message — a community message more than ours — that this will not be tolerated in our community,” Assistant District Attorney Scott Holden told the Herald-Press. “These were kids in kindergarten through second grade. They deserve to feel safe on the school bus.”
Holden and Assistant District Attorney Erica Morgan represented the state.
Around 7:30 a.m. Dec. 18, 2012, Palestine police officers responded to Timbercrest Apartments, located in the 1000 block of Sugar Lane, where Lewis was involved in an altercation.
“He got into an altercation with someone at the apartments. Someone called the police, so he took off running,” Holden told the Herald-Press.
Bystanders at the scene testified that he took off toward the property line away from the apartments, but then turned around and went toward a Palestine Independent School District bus full of at least 30 children in grades kindergarten to second grade.
The bus driver was in the aisle assisting a student when Lewis boarded the bus. When he saw that Lewis was on board and in the driver seat, he made contact with the suspect. Two apartment maintenance employees and an off-duty correctional officer saw the incident and went to the aid of the bus driver.