Man convicted as minor in Lillelid slayings files petition challenging sentence

Jason Bryant

JOHNSON CITY, TN  (WJHL) – Jason Bryant, the youngest member of a group convicted in the 1997 killings of the Lillelid family in Greene County, filed a new petition in federal court last month challenging his sentence.

The filing was made in U.S. District Court in Middle Tennessee on May 17. Bryant was 15 when he, along with five others, was sentenced to life in prison with no parole for his role in the deaths of Vidar and Delfina Lillelid and their six-year-old daughter Tabitha. The family’s two-year-old son Peter survived the shooting.

In April 1997 the family had stopped at a rest area in Greene County when they were kidnapped and taken to a remote road in nearby Baileyton, where the killings took place.

Bryant’s motion argues that his life-without-parole sentence was unconstitutional because the Supreme Court recently ruled that “mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments.”

One of Bryant’s co-defendants, Karen Howell, was also a minor at the time of the murders. A judge ruled in May that her sentence of life with no parole was appropriate.

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