It is extremely rare for a victim to directly hold her attacker accountable in open court. But that’s exactly what Ceresa “Cece” Coffee did Wednesday morning, immediately after he was sentenced to more than three decades in prison.
Minutes earlier, Ted Andrew Jefferson refused to admit his role in a 2012 home invasion that resulted in Coffee being shot in the head and beaten, Coffee addressed Jefferson in open court about how the incident traumatized her.
Coffee said she would “never forget” the look in Jefferson’s eyes during the attack.
“You were there, I was there. You know what happened,” Coffee said, attacking Jefferson’s contention that he never set foot in her home. “I don’t think you know how much this hurts your family. I know your mother’s heart was broken.”
The incident left her so afraid that one week later, she sat in her garage with the lights out, her shotgun in her lap, certain that others would return to attack her.
Coffee asked Jefferson if he had seen the photos taken of her following the crime, showing her injuries.
“You need to see those pictures. Your mama needs to see those pictures,” Coffee said.
A jury found Jefferson guilty March 28 of all seven counts filed against him in connection with the July 2012 invasion of Coffee’s home; two co-defendants previously entered guilty pleas in the case.
Coffee recalled her actions immediately after she was shot while trying to flee the scene.
“I crawled into the woods and buried myself under leaves, thinking you were going to come and shoot me in the back,” Coffee said. “I was trying to hide from the person who shot me and was coming after me.”
Coffee recalled her attempts to bargain with Jefferson during the attack — by offering to give him her car and her diamond earrings — but he insisted on money he thought was at the home. She also told Jefferson he should be thankful she was unable to make it to her shotgun during the melee.
“I’d have battled to the death,” Coffee said.
At the conclusion of her calmly delivered statement, Coffee spoke to Jefferson not just as the woman whom he tied up and nearly killed, but as a mother.
“You’ve got to make this tragedy count … for you and your family,” Coffee said. “Don’t get involved with drugs and make this count for you.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Jefferson replied.
Jefferson, who is 29, will serve at least 30 years of his sentence before he can be considered for parole, according to presiding Superior Court Judge Tommy R. Hankinson.
Hankinson sentenced him to life in prison plus an additional 25 years.
Prior to Coffee’s statement, Jefferson testified that he was sorry for what happened, but he didn’t admit to even going in Coffee’s home during the incident.
Jefferson, a Snellville resident, said he could have prevented the situation by driving his truck home, but he stopped short of admitting guilt. It was Jefferson’s truck, prosecutors contended, that was driven to Coffee’s home to start the terrifying incident.
“I pray that one day I will earn your forgiveness,” Jefferson said.
Judge Hankinson noted that he crafted the sentence to account for Jefferson’s three years of service with the U.S. Air Force, but he noted that the jury convicted Jefferson of some very serious charges.
A home invasion is “probably one of the greatest fears of most homeowners and even folks who don’t own a home,” Hankinson said.
Assistant District Attorney Ben Thomsen asked for a stronger sentence, arguing that Jefferson was just as guilty as someone who committed murder and that Coffee, a woman over 60, was severely beaten during the incident.
Thomsen sought for the counts to be run consecutive, and he pointed out that Jefferson refused to show remorse or take responsibility for his actions.
Thomsen also played several audio recordings from post-conviction phone calls Jefferson made from the Fayette County Jail, including one asking for $300 to buy a cell phone to have in prison.
Hankinson noted the drug connection with the case, as Jefferson was accused of committing the robbery to pay off a debt he owed to a drug dealer.
Hankinson also recalled the testimony from a second victim in the case who recalled after the gunshot was fired that the gunman reentered the home and said, “I got her.” That statement implies that Coffee was either dead or perhaps injured to the point where she wouldn’t remember the incident, Hankinson said.