For one of the more brutal local murders in recent memory, 26-year-old Brandon Estle received the maximum sentence today, life in prison, after beating Justin Hasty to death with a baseball bat in his midtown home last November then stuffing the victim’s body into a utility box, driving it across town and firing several rounds of ammunition into it.
In June, after viewing graphic photos from both scenes, jurors took less than two hours to convict Hasty, who also admitted to committing the act in a drug-fueled rage. The death penalty was not an option in the case, as evidence showed there were no aggravating circumstances beyond the victim and the defendant both being heavily involved with illegal drugs.
But with guidelines providing a sentence of as little as 20 years, District Attorney Ashley Rich called Circuit Court Judge Charlie Graddick’s life sentence a victory, but noted Estle will likely appeal the decision and may also have an opportunity for parole in as little as 15 years if the verdict stands. Graddick also ordered Estle to pay $22,000 in restitution to Hasty’s family for funeral services and additional expenses.
Throughout the trial, the courtroom was packed by supporters of both parties, who by most accounts were longtime friends and each products of upwardly mobile, middle-class white families in West Mobile.
“The message to all the of the young people that have been there so diligently sitting on both sides of the courtroom is that this should be a lesson to everyone about drugs and how drugs can ruin a person’s life and that is the best reason why you should never try them in the first place,” Rich said. “I think when all is said is done Brandon absolutely gets it and this life sentences proves his life is gone because of drugs.”
Estle’s defense attorney Jeff Deen said considering the defendant’s youth the sentence was harsh, and he encouraged support for the convicted murderer’s family, including his father Doug, who has had to maintain his composure publicly as the principal of Alma Bryant High School.
“They have been somber throughout the process and recognize the hurt Brandon has caused,” Deen said, adding Brandon was “remorseful” and in apologizing to the Hasty family and the court during trial and “did a good job expressing his feelings.”
Hasty’s mother Sandra made a brief statement to press after the sentence.
“Our goal from the beginning was that there would be justice for Justin and we have succeeded in that goal as much as the Alabama law allows,” she said. “Our son was an amazing young man and anyone who knew him knew this to be true. He will continue to live on in our lives and in our hearts and in our memories.”