MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A man is going to prison for killing his ex-girlfriend in front of their toddler on Thanksgiving day.

Randall Watkins was convicted last month. Today, a judge sentenced him to the maximum penalty.

Raven Gant was 27 years old when she died. She had gone to the house she shared with Watkins to retrieve some clothes when Watkins shot her in front of their two year old, JJ.

Nearly one year later, the case has come to an emotional close.

Raven Gant was a young woman on the move, a doting mother with a budding career in hotel management.

As her father explained to the judge, “My daughter was beautiful, hardworking, lovable, just wanted to be successful in life.”

But her life was taken – by her ex-boyfriend – killed on Thanksgiving in front of their young daughter. As Raven’s ex awaited his sentence, her father had told him – and the court – how little JJ is coping.

“It’s so vivid in her mind, she talks about it with other kids.  It just comes up: ‘My Daddy killed my Mom’.  She sees an ambulance – she thinks her Mom is in an ambulance.  She sees police, she’s just terrified, terrified by it.  This is what you did – to a Baby!” he said.

Then, it was Randall Watkins turn to speak, “My deepest compassion for the loss of Raven. I’m devastated by it and not because I’m convicted but because I truly loved Raven and I truly love our daughter and I will always love them both,” he said.

And then he tried to defend himself. “I had no intention to kill Raven, I was attacked,” he said.

The judge rejected that defense and inflicted the highest penalty: 40 years in prison. But she also said that the greatest burden is the one little JJ will have to live with.

“She lost both her parents, and she saw her Dad kill her Mom and she has got to live with that forever,” she said.

And with that, Raven’s family gathered, finding Some gratitude amidst the deepest of pain.

“We are just thankful for the outcome today and wish that none of this had to happen,” said Lakecia Gant, Raven’s mother.

Gant’s family is starting a foundation in her honor called “Be Their Voice.”

It will give women a way to escape domestic violence.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield