|Birth: ||Apr. 29, 1971|
|Death: ||Apr. 17, 2000|
GASTONIA — Michelle Christina Barnes Scruggs, 28, 1864 Haynes Ave., died April 17, 2000.She was a native of Gaston County, mother of the late Preston Thomas Scruggs, homemaker, attended Salem Baptist Church. SURVIVORS: Husband, Richard Wayne Scruggs; daughter, Chelsey Scruggs, the home; parents, Gene Barnes, Florida, Angela Johnson, Gastonia; brother, Bryon Barnes, Bessemer City; sisters-in-law, Kim Parton, Clover, S.C., Wendy Allen, Gastonia; brother-in-law, Brent Parton; maternal grandparents, Reba and Earl Bowen; father-in-law and mother-in-law, David and Vickie Ladora Parton, Clover; aunt, Cheryl Martin; uncle, Frank Bowen; good friend, John Johnson
INTERMENT: Armstrong Cemetery
GASTONIA — Family members of Michelle and Preston Scruggs cried and one left the courtroom in disgust Friday as the man convicted of killing the mother and son was sentenced to almost four years in prison.
"I think he got off scot-free," said Buford Eugene Barnes, Michelle Scruggs’ father. "There’s no excuse for slapping someone on the wrist for killing two people. I just don’t believe two lives are worth four years."
The jury found Jose Mendoza Garcia guilty of involuntary manslaughter rather than a more serious charge of second-degree murder.
With credit for 390 days spent in Gaston County Jail before his trial, the 22-year-old Garcia will spend between 2¼ years and three years in prison. District Attorney Mike Lands said Garcia, a Mexican national who entered the United States illegally in 1994, would be deported to Mexico when he completes his prison term.
Jurors said the prosecution didn’t prove Garcia conducted himself with malice on April 17, 2000, when he drove drunk without a driver’s license, ran a red light and plowed into a vehicle carrying Scruggs and her 2-year-old son at the intersection of Gaston Avenue and Firestone Street.
"We didn’t see that he went out to kill," juror Melissa Kopasz said. "It was very difficult because the way the prosecuting attorney was coming across with the definition of malice, an intent to hurt somebody, we couldn’t convict on second-degree murder."
Juror Dale Ghorley said the jury had no problem finding Garcia guilty on the less serious charges.
"Intent, there was a question of intent," Ghorley said. "I think it was difficult for all of us due to the tragic circumstances. We thought it was a very tragic case, but we were also uncomfortable under the laws of North Carolina to convict him of second-degree murder."
Although Kopasz stands by her verdict, the sentence left her with a bad feeling.
"The case itself was really difficult," she said. "I feel sorry for the family members. I don’t regret doing the involuntary manslaughter, but he should have gotten a longer sentence."
Lands argued that Garcia’s lack of driver’s license, drinking while driving and red light violation added up to malice, an element of second-degree murder.
Defense Attorney Kelly Morris argued Garcia may have made mistakes, but he didn’t intend to kill anyone when he got behind the steering wheel of a friend’s Ford Explorer.
"I think the verdict matches the evidence in this case," Morris said.
Garcia asked for forgiveness before he was sentenced.
"I only ask that they (the family) forgive me," he said through Spanish translator Mireya Matiz. "It wasn’t my intention to kill their family. I will carry this with me in my being."
Scruggs’ family members vented their anger at the jury, immigration laws and the legal system as they exited the courthouse.
Frank Bowing, Michelle Scruggs’ uncle, stalked down the courthouse hallway with angry energy.
"There’s no justice in Gaston County," he said.
North Carolina, USA
Created by: Elizabeth
Record added: Feb 20, 2006
Find A Grave Memorial# 13403243