The murders occurred on Aug. 29, 2015.
Her reaction to the verdict? “It’s a breath of fresh air. Relieved. It’s been three and a half years we’ve been waiting.”
McLawhorn, who took the witness stand prior to the jury’s sentencing to provide a victim’s impact statement, agreed to speak with reporters outside the courtroom after the trial concluded. So did her sister, Heather Millhorn.
They both said they felt justice had finally been served. They and other members of their family attended court each day throughout the trail, which began Jan. 14. Both women said hearing testimony and evidence presented in the case, such as a 911 call in which their mortally-wounded brother can be heard talking — and testimony from a paramedic that James Millhorn repeatedly said he knew he was dying — gave them their first real information about those final minutes of his life.
“The past week and a half has been excruciating,” McLawhorn said. “This (verdict, sentencing and end of the trial) brings a lot of peace. We can officially lay our brother to rest and not have to talk about (the murders and trial) every day.”
Heather Millhorn said listening to the 911 call “was the hardest thing I’ve been through since he passed away. I think I’ll carry that with me a long time.”
The testimony that James was able to talk and knew he was dying was “horrible” to hear, but at the same time brought “a sense of relief.” Why? “Because he knew he was dying and he had time to get right. I think he already was, but if he wasn’t ... he had time to get right (with God).”
Faith, Heather said, has helped her deal with the aftermath of her oldest brother’s murder — which included their mother suffering a stroke five months later and then passing away in April 2018.
“She didn’t get to see justice served,” Heather said. “That’s one reason we wanted to be here every day of the trial. For her. When they read the verdict I started crying and I looked up and thought about her and we were here to see it and hear it for her.”
Heather said she has been “blessed” to be able to forgive Denton, although she’s had a lot of trouble dealing with the loss of James and the manner of his death. She said a few weeks after the murders, after the funerals and some time for it to sink in, it was real, “I said one prayer about it and it was like a blanket of peace came over me. My journey is to get into heaven. And I can’t get into heaven without forgiveness. I had forgiveness in my heart, and I’m very grateful for that.”
McLawhorn said she, too, has found forgiveness — but it was more of a struggle for her.
And both women said it doesn’t mean they can forget, or that they didn’t want justice served and Denton punished.
Both said they’d known Denton since he was younger, when James and Denton’s mother, Toshya Millhorn, first became a couple. Heather said her time at Sullivan East High School overlapped some with Denton’s time there (he was older) and she had visited his grandparents’ home some over the years.
The two sisters said they knew Denton had at some point been a “troubled” child, but neither of them or any of the rest of their family had any inkling something like the murders could result.
“We were shocked,” McLawhorn said, describing how she’d gotten a call from her father around midnight the night of the murders and he was so upset he couldn’t get the words out to tell her and passed the phone to a police officer who broke the news.
On the witness stand, McLawhorn said their brother James was a “fun, loving, caring” man who was loved.
“We miss him more than words can explain,” she said. “Our lives will never be the same. Our big happy family was shattered. Our life is filled with sorrow and grief.”
“He was a role model,” Heather said outside the courtroom when asked to describe her brother James. “I looked up to him. I thought he was the greatest thing since sliced bread.”