Vincent Sims let the tears fall, his voice breaking with emotion as he faced the man who gunned down two of his sons in April 2012.
Brandon and Zachary Sims, working for their father's bail bonds company, had arrived at a southwest Bakersfield residence intending to apprehend a man for skipping bail. They unexpectedly encountered Stephen Michael Stewart, who grabbed a gun and shot them both, chasing Brandon Sims outside and gunning him down as Sims tried to escape.
"You just shot him in the head!" Vincent Sims said Tuesday in court. "He was running from you, man! How could you do that?"
Judge Colette M. Humphrey sentenced Stewart to 38 years, four months in prison. He pleaded no contest last month to charges including two counts of voluntary manslaughter in exchange for dismissing murder and other charges.
Prosecutor Art Norris has said he contacted the Sims family before approving the plea deal, which will land Stewart, 28, behind bars for a good portion, if not all, of his life. That's what Vincent Sims expects.
"I feel in my heart you won't walk out of prison alive," he told Stewart.
Several other Sims family members addressed Stewart, who maintained eye contact with all of them and appeared to wipe away a tear when they finished. Deena Sims, mother to one of the victims and stepmother to the other, told Stewart she misses them both but holds no hatred in her heart.
"Even though my grief is intense, I wish you no bitterness or pain," she said.
Deena Sims talked about her belief that her boys are in heaven, and told Stewart it's not too late for him to change and seek forgiveness through God.
"Don't give up on yourself," she told him.
Stewart was represented by Deputy Public Defender T. Alan Rogers.
Police reports say Brandon Sims, 23, and Zachary Sims, 26, went to a residence in the 7800 block of Kamloops Drive on April 26, 2012. They were looking for Zachary Perrick, who had skipped bail.
Perrick answered the door, but Stewart, also in the house, immediately tried to push it shut. Brandon Sims kept the door from closing and entered the house.
Stewart armed himself with a handgun and fired a round at Sims. Perrick ran and heard a volley of gunfire, the reports say.
Police found the bodies of both brothers at the scene. Zachary Sims was inside the house with a gunshot wound to the head, and Brandon Sims was found dead by a southeast corner of the residence.
Police tracked Stewart to a friend's home and arrested him two days later.
Vincent Sims said both men were unarmed. He said he trained them, and they would have identified themselves as bondsmen when they knocked.
The father said he lost part of his soul that day.
"These boys never been in trouble, never hurt a soul," he said.