SIOUX CITY | For five years, Courtland Clark was able to come and go as he pleased and enjoy his freedom.
In those same five years, the family of Tony "T-Bone" Canfield mourned his loss.
"You had five years of living your life. We've had five years of emptiness," Canfield's cousin Jenae Sides told Clark on Wednesday.
Clark, 30, of Flowery Branch, Georgia, was sentenced to 21 years in prison for his role in the May 1, 2011, shooting death of Canfield. Clark pleaded guilty in June in U.S. District Court in Sioux City to interference with commerce by robbery and use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence causing death.
Shortly before receiving his sentence, Clark apologized to Canfield's family and asked for their forgiveness.
"We planned to rob Mr. Canfield, but nobody was supposed to get hurt," Clark said.
Last week, Devery Hibbler, 26, of Dumas, Arkansas, was sentenced to 35 years in prison, and Robert Beaver, 35, of Sioux City, was sentenced to 20 years. Their sentences were spelled out in plea agreements the negotiated with government prosecutors.
Clark's sentence was left to U.S. District Judge Leonard Strand's discretion. The federal sentencing formula called for a sentence ranging from 30 years to life in prison. Strand granted Clark a reduction in his sentence because of his cooperation after his arrest. Assistant U.S. Attorney Forde Fairchild said Clark essentially confessed to the crime, confirming several facts of a case based mostly on circumstantial evidence.
"His confession dovetailed almost perfectly with the details we had in the case," Fairchild said at a press conference later Wednesday in which local and federal authorities explained how they solved the case.
Clark informed investigators that he, Hibbler and Beaver put on masks and went to Canfield's home at 1401 George St. to rob him of marijuana and money he had made from marijuana sales. Clark brought the gun, and Beaver beat and held Canfield's wife while Hibbler and Clark robbed Canfied.
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When Canfield resisted and tried to escape from the house, Hibbler shot him once in the head on the front porch.
Police at the scene had no evidence to point at any suspects, Fairchild said. There was no DNA, no fingerprints, no gun left behind and no shell casings were found. A police search with canine units quickly went cold.
Fairchild credited "old-fashioned detective work" by Sioux City police and federal investigators with cracking the case.
"Every great break is the result of hard work and a lot of asked questions," he said.
In the months after Canfield's death, police asked anyone arrested on a drug or marijuana charge if they knew Canfield, bought marijuana from him or knew someone who bought marijuana from him. Sioux City police Capt. Marti Reilly said it's typical of officers to "cast a net," or ask people if they know anything about other unsolved crimes. Any little detail learned may lead to more information.
"When we have an unsolved homicide like this, everybody's working to get that little sliver," Reilly said. "Sometimes to get your foot in the door, you just need that sliver."
It was that constant questioning that led to a break in the case. Two people arrested for crimes unrelated to Canfield's death told police they had heard something about the three men who were involved.
At that point, police hadn't had any suspects. But those two accounts gave police the names of more people to question, leading to more interviews and more names. Through all those interviews, authorities identified Hibbler, Beaver and Clark as suspects. As the months went by, investigators traveled to several states gathering evidence -- jail records, receipts, work histories -- to corroborate what witnesses told them and build a case against the three men.
That work culminated with a federal indictment in April, nearly five years after Canfield was killed.