KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (CBS News) -- Former Division III college football player William Riley Gaul was found guilty on Tuesday of first-degree murder after shooting through the bedroom wall of his ex-girlfriend while she was sleeping. The eight-man, four-woman jury deliberated four hours before reaching its verdict. The 19-year-old was immediately given a mandatory sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole for 51 years.
Gaul was a wide receiver who had just finished his freshman season at Tennessee's Maryville College when 16-year-old Emma Walker was killed on Nov. 21, 2016. Gaul was dismissed from the team after his arrest.
Audible gasps could be heard from the gallery when the jury foreman pronounced him guilty. Gaul, who had been out on bond, was taken into custody. Relatives and friends of the former high school cheerleader later embraced outside the courtroom.
"Today is about justice for Emma Walker and her family," Knox County District Attorney Charme Allen said.
Both sides agreed Gaul fired the shots from outside the Walker family's home in Knoxville. The debate was over his state of mind at the time.
Prosecutors said Gaul intended to kill his ex-girlfriend in anger over the end of their two-year relationship. Defense lawyer Wesley Stone said Gaul never intended to harm Walker and should be convicted of the lesser charge of reckless homicide.