Jurors deliberated two hours before unanimously agreeing on a death sentence for 61-year-old David Edenfield. He was convicted Monday of aggravated child molestation and murder in the March 2007 slaying of Christopher Michael Barrios.
Edenfield stood passively as the judge read his sentence, and the victim's family silently dabbed at tears.
Edenfield was the first of three family members to stand trial in the case. His wife and their 34-year-son have also been charged with abducting, molesting and killing the boy.
"He got his justice - Christopher got it today," said Sue Rodriguez, the boy's grandmother, smiling through tears. "Now we've got two more to go."
Christopher went missing March 8, 2007, from the Brunswick mobile home park where his father and grandmother both had homes. His body was found a week later by a roadside, wrapped in trash bags.
Edenfield's family had moved into a home across the street from Christopher's grandmother four months earlier. Police found one of Christopher's toys, a Star Wars lightsaber, in Edenfield's front yard. Edenfield's grown son, George Edenfield, was a convicted child molester.
The elder Edenfield confessed to the crime in a videotaped interview with a police detective the day after the boy's body was found.
On the tape, Edenfield said he and his son molested the boy inside their home while his wife, Peggy Edenfield, watched. He said Christopher pleaded with them to stop and threatened to tell his father and grandmother, prompting Edenfield's son to begin choking the boy.
Edenfield told police he placed his own hands on top of his son's as Christopher choked to death.
"Fortunately for us, they had that confession," said Mike Barrios, the boy's father, who had listened stoically to a week of grisly trial testimony. "Christopher's up in heaven. He's smiling down now."
Before jurors began deliberating Edenfield's sentence, his defense lawyers urged them to consider mercy. The attorneys accused George Edenfield of instigating the boy's abduction and killing.
"David Homer Edenfield is going to die in prison, that's a fact," defense attorney John Beall told the jury. "Here's another fact. This beautiful little boy was murdered and will never come back."
Beall and James Yancey Jr., Edenfield's other lawyer, did not speak to reporters after sentencing.
In a fiery argument, District Attorney Stephen Kelley asked the jury to sentence Edenfield to die, saying "maybe he's just rotten from the inside out. ... And his words on that tape were, 'It felt good."'
The judge halted the prosecutor's heated presentation when Kelley pointed at Edenfield and called him an "animal." Edenfield's attorneys asked for a mistrial based on the outburst, but Superior Court Judge Stephen Scarlett denied the motion.
Because of pretrial publicity, the jury was drawn from a community 90 miles away, and the jurors were sequestered during the weeklong trial in Brunswick, 60 miles south of Savannah.
George Edenfield, who is mentally retarded according to his father, is still being evaluated to determine if he's competent to stand trial. Peggy Edenfield would be tried last, according to deal in which prosecutors agreed to spare her from the death penalty if she testified against her husband and son.
Kelley declined to say much about those pending cases Tuesday.
"We've still got a lot of work to do," he said.