A 32-year-old South Boston man will spend the next 25 years in prison after shooting and killing his best friend at a birthday party last year.

Darrin Lamont Crawley was sentenced Friday morning in Halifax County Circuit Court to an active 25-year prison sentence for the March 29, 2020 homicide of 32-year-old Travis Leon Hughes.

“There’s a huge loss. There’s a vacuum in this community. Travis is not here because of the actions of Darrin Crawley,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Tracy Q. Martin at the sentencing. “There’s a horrible pain that this family feels every day, but they are still holding onto Travis.”

Judge Kimberley S. White sentenced Crawley to 40 years in prison for what she termed the “senseless murder” of Hughes on what should have been a “joyous occasion.”

White suspended all but 25 years of the sentence conditioned on Crawley’s good behavior for 40 years. The sentence was for the charge of second-degree murder as well as other gun-related charges stemming from the murder.

Crawley had previously pleaded guilty to the shooting that took the life of Hughes, who he testified on the witness stand was like a brother to him. The shooting took place at a birthday party for Crawley’s girlfriend and the mother of his children, at Crawley’s mother’s residence on Huell Matthews Highway.

Hughes left behind four young daughters, all under the age of 10. On the witness stand, Hughes’ father Marvin Meadows described him as a “big brother” type of figure in his family and in the community.

“Travis was no stranger to anybody,” Marvin said. “He would take his shirt off his back for anybody. He’s going to be greatly missed by a lot of people in this town.”

Hughes’ stepmother Vicky Meadows testified on the witness stand saying she remembers him as a “good person” who loved his family and “loved to laugh and loved to tease people.”

“When I go by his house, I can’t help but thinking, ‘I wonder if Travis is home.’ You forget,” Vicky said.

Crawley apologized to Hughes’ family and said if he could take back his actions the day of March 29, 2020, he would.

“Please forgive me. I know what you all are going through because it really hurts me, and I’m sorry,” Crawley said.

“I wish I could take this back. Travis has kids just like I’ve got kids, and I know what his kids meant to him. I know what his family meant to him…It hurts me every day knowing I won’t be able to see my friend again.”

Crawley shot Hughes several times at the party, while Hughes was trying to get away and save himself, according to evidence presented by Martin. Martin pointed to the pictures from the autopsy, which showed five entrance wounds and several exit wounds in Hughes’ body.

“It’s clear that Travis was trying to get away, that Travis was trying to save himself, when the defendant shot him in the back, five times. He was either running or crawling or moving to get away,” Martin said.

Martin added, “I wish we knew the truth. I don’t know why he shot Travis. They were friends. He told police they were in an argument. He denied that today. This was obviously in a setting of some level of inflamed emotions. But of course there’s malice. It’s clear there’s malice. He had malice when he shot Travis.”

White concluded that whether Crawley started shooting into a crowd, by his account on the witness stand, or whether he was in a dispute with Hughes, who “by all accounts was unarmed” and shot him, Crawley was “exceedingly reckless” in his actions that night.

“Both of these are equally senseless,” White stated.

Prior to his sentencing, Crawley’s defense attorney Mike Trent advocated for a shorter, 10-year prison sentence for Crawley, pointing to the remorse he showed on the witness stand that day and in an interview with police in the days following the homicide of Hughes.

“We have somebody who took responsibility very quickly and clearly felt horrible about it from the second it happened,” Trent said, also noting that Crawley took Hughes to the hospital with another guest at the party who had been involved in a dispute earlier that night.

But ultimately that night, White pointed out Crawley shot Hughes “in the back of the body five times,” pulling the trigger each separate time a shot was fired.

Crawley is serving out his prison sentence at Blue Ridge Regional Jail Authority’s Amherst County Adult Detention Center.

Miranda Baines is a staff writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at mbaines@gazettevirginian.com.

Miranda Baines is a staff writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at mbaines@gazettevirginian.com.