Limestone County Circuit Judge Chad Wise said the court would hear testimony, saying there’s a “balancing test” that needs to be performed.
District Attorney Brian CT Jones offered victims to present their impact statements ahead of sentencing.
Mary Sisk’s brother, Douglas Prater said, “On September 1, 2019, I came home with gifts for everyone – including you, Mason. Instead of seeing the happiness on their faces, I had to put those gifts in caskets.”
Prater continued, “My family has suffered so much. We haven’t been able to rest for years because of what you did. You were accepted into our family. Since you were 4. I remember driving you to get video games, [and] basketball practice. You’re in our family photos and that’s all we have left to remember our family by. A whole family has been lost. I lost my sister Mary. She loved you, and you killed her.”
“Your Nanny,” Prater said, “…she chose you as a grandson. She passed away this past year and so your one supporter is gone.” Sisk swallowed very hard at this.
Mary Sisk’s sister Katie also spoke, saying, “Mary was about to start a Ph.D. with four kids. [Our] first time meeting [baby Colson] was in a casket.” She added, “Mason, your mom tried to leave your dad so many times. He would say ‘You can take the other but you can’t take Mason.'”
“Nanny never believed that it was you until the evidence was in front of her face,” Katie said pointedly at Mason. “How could her first grandson murder her family? She had a heart attack and later died from cardiac arrest.”
“I do not know if I will ever forgive you, but I do grieve the loss of you. The child Mason that I knew died the day you murdered them,” Katie concluded.
The State Chief Deputy District Attorney spoke following victim impact statements, saying, “He thought about what he did. He was resourceful. This was not something rash that happened in the heat of the moment. This was calculated and planned.”
He continued, “It’s hard to imagine circumstances more heinous or more catastrophic. These should be the safest places in the entire world for a child – in their beds, in their mothers’ arms. But for the Sisk children, that wasn’t the case.”
“There have been allegations that Mason was mistreated by John,” the deputy attorney said. “That may be true, except he took it out on his entire family. Documents show that [Sisk] was competent and showed no signs of mental illness. [He] cannot be rehabilitated.”
The deputy attorney said that based on those factors along with testimony/evidence presented, life in prison without the possibility of parole was recommended on all four counts.
Following a brief recess, the defense called Matt “Gator” Paddie, who Mason calls Uncle Gator. He says he met John Sisk in a motorcycle club around 2012/2013. The two developed a friendship and “became like family.”
“I never seen anything bad happen when I was around. The family seemed fine but I wouldn’t have allowed it anyway if I was around,” Gator explained. “Kids and women are two things I don’t play about.”
Gator described Mason as staying in his room a lot. “But when he came out, he played with him. He was a nerdy kid growing up. He was starting to grow into himself.”
Defense Attorney Shay Golden showed two pictures to Gator. In one photo, taken just days before their deaths, Mason and John are seen burying the younger kids in the sand on vacation.
Gator said he “didn’t sense any tension between Mason and his family,” but added that there was a bit of tension between John and Mary. He revealed that he does not believe that Mason committed the murders.
“I don’t believe he did it. I think there’s a little more to it somewhere. We’ll never know the truth.” He added, “How can I feel anger, I don’t know what happened. I cannot say that that man right there killed his family. I don’t know that. Everything was fine. So what transpired that night to make this happen? I don’t know. I can’t satisfy everyone.”
Gator looked to Mary’s family, saying, “I can’t turn my back on him. Mary wouldn’t want me to. I’m sorry y’all.” He was dismissed from the stand shortly after.
The defense continued by calling Lola Holladay, Mason’s girlfriend at the time of the murders, to the stand. She recounted what Mason had told her about his birth mother. “He told me that his birth mother used to lock him in bathrooms and leave. Then his dad got remarried.”
“He always played with his siblings, dressed up with his sister, did tea parties,” Lola recalled. “He was scared to hold the baby because he was so small.”
Holladay said that Mason had warned her that if anything bad had happened, his uncle (Lance, John’s brother) had done it.
“The night of the murders he called me bawling. Hyperventilating. I couldn’t understand him. I had to calm him down,” Lola added. “I never believed that Mason did this. I thought that he lost his mind in jail being by himself. I never believed any of the messages he sent me from jail.”
The defense then called Charles Holladay, Lola’s father, to the stand. “He was very well-mannered, thoughtful,” he explained. “At one point I heard that Mason was being treated badly. Abused. [Lola] told me that he said ‘if something bad happened to his family that his uncle did it and he would take the blame.'”
Charles recalled being at the Sisk home once, saying “Within 45 minutes of being there I told my wife we needed to leave because I was going to be fighting him and his brother. During the visit he told a little girl (not his daughter) to ‘come lick his underarm and get in there real good’, I was appalled and we left.”
“It didn’t change how I viewed Mason, I felt sad for him and thought no one deserved that,” Charles Holladay said.
“The loss of his rights is absolutely minute compared to this crime – the loss of the victims,” he continued. “I’ve personally sat in a max five prison. If he’s not already bought and paid for when he gets off the bus, he will be immediately.”
In a sort of plea to the court, Charles said, “I’ve personally done time in a maximum security prison. Give him an inkling of hope that he can get out and change…I did.”
“When you come into prison with heinous charges, nobody will associate with you,” Charles continued. “It’s my understanding that the only people that will associate with him will take full advantage of him.”
“The glimmer of hope of getting out encouraged me to take steps towards my betterment as a person,” Charles said. “I don’t think admissions by a 14-year-old boy locked up 23 hours a day should hold any weight.”
“I don’t believe he did what he’s been convicted of doing,” Charles stated.
When the District Attorney confronted Charles, asking “Regardless of evidence, you don’t think Mason should be locked up forever, right?”
Charles responded, “I don’t think he should be locked up at all.”
Amanda River, John Sisk’s sister, was called to the stand next. “When Mason’s [biological] mom was sober, she was great. But she had a hard time staying that way. She wasn’t a part of Mason’s life very long.”
“Mason did weird things as a child,” Rivera said. “He would rock to soothe himself from a young age. He did it for years to cope.”
The court was then shown a picture of 4-year-old Mason sitting in a gift box, wearing a Santa hat, followed by another photo of a younger Mason with a skinny mohawk.
Court resumed following a midday lunch break, and the defense called David Wise, a retired prison warden. He stated that St. Clair “is a level 5 facility, and probably one of the toughest prisons in the country, not just the state.” He added that “Donaldson was the only level 6 facility in the state.”
Wise laid out his description of the prison environment. “Prison has a very political atmosphere. And a lot of violence. It has a hierarchy. The higher-up inmates run stores, gambling, believe it or not – prostitution in prison. Then you have the weaker inmates they prey upon.”
“One of the biggest headaches in max prisons in the state are teenagers in the population. Teens create problems. The younger you are, the bigger target you are in prison,” Wise stated. “He’s (Mason) going to either be at St. Clair, Limestone Correctional or Donaldson. I think Holman is usually reserved for death row.”
The retired warden declared if he had the option, “I’d rather have a death sentence than life without parole.”
Wise continued, saying the inmate population “already knows” Mason because “they watch the news,” but added, “if he carries himself the right way, he could survive it.”
Sisk’s Defense Attorney Michael Sizemore said the teen would not make a statement at Tuesday’s hearing.
“If you’ll remember,” Sizemore addressed the judge, “during Mason’s statements, he told investigators he had punched a hole in the wall, but before he returned upstairs he covered the hole with a poster so he wouldn’t get in trouble. That’s the immaturity we’re dealing with.”
Sizemore continued, “There was never an attempt to identify any other suspects in the case. You heard today judge, multiple people that have known him and seen him with his family say that they don’t believe he did it, or they don’t think he did it.”
“We’ve heard at least some evidence of an abusive home environment,” Sizemore stated. “We’ve heard more today regarding the actual nature of that home environment during the course of Mason’s childhood.”
Sizemore said, “Mason said impetuously, ‘We can do this all night,’ before confessing to evidence that was supplied to him by investigators a minute later.” The attorney said, “Mason was 14 at the time. To suggest that at that time that he has no potential for rehabilitation is to say he will be looked at as his 14-year-old self. There’s no one in this room that is the same person they were at 14.”
On the night of the murders, Sizemore points to Mason’s feelings, saying he asked on the scene about survivors. “[Mason] responds ‘thank God’ when a deputy [says] some of the victims were still breathing.”
Sizemore then adds, “I think he has vast potential to be rehabilitated if he’s allowed in programs, allowed to complete his education. He’ll likely be just shy of 45 when he’s eligible for parole, if he gets parole.”
“We recommend life with parole on all four counts,” Sizemore concluded.
The State brought Jones to the stand for rebuttal to finish off the day.
“This is not a case about bad decisions. This is not a case about hope for rehabilitation,” Jones said. “It’s the gravity of this situation. It’s not some minor infraction. He planned this. He stole the weapon. He waited for them to go to bed, and shot and killed everyone.”
“When we go to bed at night, lock our doors and turn our alarms on, he’s what we’re afraid of. When kids are scared of monsters, he’s who we’re afraid of,” Jones added.
The court was adjourned around 2:30 p.m. and the matter will now be taken under advisement. An analysis will be performed under Ex Parte Henderson and an order will be issued resetting the matter in the future.
Mason Sisk, now 18, was found guilty in April of four counts of capital murder, one count for killing two or more people, one course of conduct in the 2019 deaths of his five family members. He was 14 at the time.
It took the jury less than two hours to deliberate, after hearing from 31 witnesses during the trial.
Sisk was convicted of shooting and killing John Wayne Sisk, 38, Mary Sisk, 35, and his three siblings — 6-year-old Kane, 4-year-old Aurora and 6-month-old Colson.
The Limestone County Sheriff’s Office announced shortly after the incident that Mason Sisk had confessed to killing his parents and three siblings.
Under Alabama law, someone convicted of capital murder faces one of two possible sentences: life in prison without parole or the death penalty. Sisk turned 18 last Christmas, but for sentencing purposes, his age at the time of the offense is something the court will have to consider.
A handful of U.S. Supreme Court cases in the past 18 years changed how sentencing in cases like Sisk’s work.
Judge Wise will decide at a later date whether to sentence the teen to life in prison without parole or a lesser sentence where parole would be possible.