An Auburn man who shot and killed his neighbor and his dog in July 2017 has been sentenced to life in prison.
Larry Bates was convicted of malice murder and animal cruelty and was sentenced to life, plus 10 years, shortly thereafter on Aug. 26 in Barrow County Superior Court following a week-long trial that opened with jury selection Aug. 19. He will be eligible for parole after 30 years.
Bates, then 46, shot and killed his neighbor from across the street, Paul Wilson, 44, a little after 1 a.m. on July 2, 2017 while Wilson was walking one of the family dogs, Scooter, on Crest Pointe Court in Auburn. Wilson had just returned home, where he and his wife, Beth, lived with her parents, from working at a restaurant in Lawrenceville. Beth heard the gunshots and ran from their home and found her husband and the dog shot to death. Bates walked past her during the incident and was yelling at her, Beth Wilson said at the time.
The murder followed a weeks-long dispute between Bates and the Wilsons as Bates repeatedly alleged that Scooter and the Wilsons’ other dog, which escaped and ran home during the shooting, were defecating in his yard. The Wilsons had denied that allegation, but Paul had offered to pick up any dog feces in the yard in an attempt to ease tensions. Bates later confessed to Auburn police that he shot Wilson and the dog because he believed the dogs were defecating in his yard. But he then pled not guilty.
A bench trial was initially scheduled to be held earlier this year, but Bates changed defense attorneys, delaying the trial by several months.
The Barrow County District Attorney’s Office did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Beth Wilson said she testified Aug. 21 and the prosecution rested Aug. 22. The defense called one character witness, an old Army friend of Bates, Wilson said.
“I’m exhausted. It was a lot to go through,” Beth Wilson told the Barrow News-Journal Aug. 30. “I’m glad to have that part of this whole ordeal over with. For two years, it’s all I did every night before bed, just running through the events in my head, not wanting to mess up. I’m just grateful to have it over with and glad he was convicted on malice murder.”
Wilson thanked the prosecutors and district attorney as well as the Auburn police officers who had worked the case.
“They went above and beyond to be there in the courtroom,” she said. “There’s no such thing as justice when another life has been taken, but I feel like I got some justice for my husband. He was cremated and I didn’t feel like I could lay him to peace without this. I’m glad that now I don’t have to think about this every day.
“When you lose somebody like that, it’ll stay with you for the rest of your life, but I won’t have to think about (Bates) ever again.”