EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. -- A man who successfully appealed his 20-year prison sentence on the grounds that the punishment in a shotgun killing wasn't enough lost his gamble Thursday when jurors convicted him of murder, subjecting him now to up to four times his original prison term.
Jurors in southwestern Illinois' Madison County deliberated about three hours before finding Brian Pinkas, 51, guilty of first-degree murder in the Valentine's Day 2004 killing of 37-year-old girlfriend Sharon Reynolds.
Pinkas acknowledged he fatally shot Reynolds in the head at their home in Granite City but said that it was an accident when the weapon discharged during an argument.
Pinkas later pleaded guilty in 2005 and was ordered to spend 20 years in prison. But an appellate court threw out his guilty plea after he argued his sentence was invalid because it didn't include a mandatory 25-year term for firearm use, setting the stage for the trial that began Monday.
Pinkas now could face up to 85 years in prison -- as much as 60 on the murder conviction, plus a quarter-century on the weapons count. State law requires anyone convicted of murder to serve a full sentence.
"Once again, Brian Pinkas is being held accountable for his actions," Tom Gibbons, the county's state's attorney, said in a statement after Thursday's verdict. "The defendant argued that he didn't know the gun would go off. I'm pleased that a jury rejected his claim and found him guilty for what this was -- the first-degree murder of Sharon Reynolds. I hope her family will finally get some peace as a result of this conviction."
A sentencing hearing was not immediately scheduled.