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A Madison man was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his role in three armed robberies in 2017 that included pistol-whipping and beating a dying Michael Meaderds after he had been shot trying to run from the gunmen in his North Side residence.

Steven T. Johnson, 27, also was sentenced to 10 years of extended supervision by Dane County Circuit Judge Jill Karofsky after she listened to emotional statements from family members of the 33-year-old Meaderds.

Inside a packed courtroom, Meaderds’ fiance, Jessica Marias, told Karofsky that Meaderds’ 3-year-old son witnessed the shooting, pistol-whipping and beating and then watched his father die during the armed robbery that occurred on Northport Drive on May 30, 2017.

“I’ll never forget seeing my son asking his father to get up, to start breathing again,” Marias said.

Karofsky told Meaderds’ family members that their pain was palpable and she could sense their frustration as they searched for an answer to why he was killed.

“I don’t have the answer to that question,” she said. “Michael’s death appears to be senseless.”

As part of a plea agreement, Johnson pleaded guilty in August to armed robbery charges stemming from the incidents at Meaderds’ residence, at a home on Andrews Drive in Sun Prairie on May 13, 2017, where a 38-year-old man was shot and pistol-whipped, and at a home on Chicory Way, also in Sun Prairie, on May 23, 2017.

The agreement also called for prosecutors to dismiss felony murder and battery charges against Johnson, who helped police with their investigation of the robberies, according to Assistant District Attorney Tracy McMiller. She said Johnson wasn’t the shooter in either incident in which men were shot but he pistol-whipped both men.

Odum Carter, 32, of Sun Prairie, who was said to have shot both men, will be sentenced by Karofsky in October for felony murder and armed robbery.

Police say Johnson and Carter were joined in all three armed robberies by Emmanuel J. Johnson, 31, of Madison. He was charged last month with felony murder, first-degree recklessly endangering safety and multiple armed robbery charges.

A fourth man, Devon Davis, 27, who was with them at Meaderds’ residence, is awaiting sentencing for armed robbery.

McMiller told Karofsky that Johnson told the person conducting a pre-sentence report that he felt justified taking part in the armed robberies because they were robbing drug dealers. “That’s ironic considering the defendant was supporting himself at the time (of the robberies) by dealing drugs,” McMiller said.

Marias told Karofsky that 15 years in prison wasn’t long enough of a sentence because Johnson helped scar his son for life. As she fought back tears, Marias said her son sleeps every night with his head on a pillow that has a picture of his father on it. She said he is always asking her when his father is going to come home.

“Every time he goes outside, he thinks he sees one of (the gunmen) and he wants to go back in the house,” Marias said.

That resonated with Karofsky as she explained to the courtroom full of Johnson’s and Meaderds’ family members how she determined Johnson’s sentence. “The pistol whipping of Mr. Meaderds after he was shot is nothing short of really cruel behavior,” she said.

Karofsky said the number of serious offenses committed by Johnson and his accomplices and the number of lives affected by them played a role in her sentencing decision.

She also noted all three armed robberies took place in front of children in homes, which are supposed to be safe havens for families.

Johnson apologized to Meaderds’ family before Karofsky imposed the sentence, saying he was “truly ashamed and haunted” by what he did.

Rob Schultz has won multiple writing awards at the state and national levels and covers an array of topics for the Wisconsin State Journal in south-central and southwestern Wisconsin.