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Man given life sentence for 2006 beating

By Staff
Jonathan Willis
Josh Tunnell, wearing an orange county jail jump suit and handcuffs, plead for his life Thursday morning.
Tunnell, 30, of 501 E. Lauderdale St., Russellville, pleaded guilty last week to attempted murder charges after beating an elderly Russellville woman in November 2006.
"It may have been more merciful if she had died that day," said Circuit Judge Terry Dempsey during the sentencing hearing Thursday.
"What you did that day, there is no excuse for."
Dempsey told Tunnell that he would "serve the rest of his natural life" in prison.
Tunnell is accused of attacking a 79-year-old Russellville woman during a home invasion that took place Nov. 15, 2006, on Gaines Avenue in Russellville.
Police said the woman was severely beaten in the face and head. Authorities said she suffered injuries to her neck, head and face. The woman was nearly strangled to death during the attack.
Family members of the victim Thursday asked Dempsey not to be lenient in his sentencing.
"What can anyone say about a man who would do this to a 77 year-old woman," said the victim's sister, Americus Graham.
The victim was taken to Northeast Medical Center in Tupelo, Miss., where she was in critical condition for more than a month.
She is not able to live alone any longer and must stay with a family member.
"This one of the most senseless crimes that's ever happened in Franklin County," said District Attorney Joey Rushing.
Rev. Charles Dale said he always knew that the victim, Pauline White, would be a fe w minutes late arriving for Sunday School, but he always knew she would be there.
"That door don't open at that time anymore because she can't come to Sunday School," Dale said.
Tunnell apologized to White's family Thursday asking them to forgive him.
"Everyday I wake up and can't believe that I did it," he said.
"I am sorry for what I did, I do know that I've asked God to forgive me. One day I hope you can forgive for my actions that night."
Tunnell's family said he had been checked for mental health issues since the age of three, but he was never properly diagnosed.
"He never received the correct diagnosis early enough to keep him from taking the path of medicating himself."