NEW CASTLE, PA. Victim's family speaks in court
Carlos Thompson will serve six to 12 years in prison and five years' probation.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Getting through each day is tough for Carol Matthews.
She says it has been a struggle to keep her family together since her oldest son, William, 24, died in a shootout on Pine Street on Feb. 13, 2000.
"This has destroyed us. It's torn my family apart. It tore us all apart," she said Friday during the 45-minute sentencing for the man accused of killing her son.
Carlos Thompson, 24, of West Washington Street, was sentenced to six to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter and possessing a firearm without a license.
He was given credit for 431 days he spent in the Lawrence County Jail since his arrest last year.
Thompson will also serve five years' probation after he is released.
Close to victim: Carol Matthews sat teary-eyed in the front row of Judge Dominick Motto's courtroom with her son's fianc & eacute;e, Misty Klingensmith. Both women told the judge how Matthews' death has affected them.
"My life is over. I will never see my baby again," Carol Matthews said.
Klingensmith, wearing a white T-shirt with a large picture of William Matthews printed on the front, sat with her two children.
"The impact of this is unexplainable," she said. "My babies will live without their father."
She said she was pregnant with their son and their daughter was 18 months old when Matthews died.
"I want you to think of Will's kids everyday and how they will never have a father. I have to do it all myself. You ruined so many lives when this happened. You took somebody very important and very special," she said.
Thompson asked both women for forgiveness.
"I'm sorry. Words cannot bring back your son. Every day you cry. Every day I have to look in the mirror and look at these scars and remember what happened that night. I'm sorry. There is nothing I can say. There is nothing I can do," he said.
He said he feels remorse for what happened and has spent his time in jail attending literacy classes and trying to get his life in order.
However, he said he had been threatened by other inmates who were Matthews' friends and has received hate mail from people he does not know.
What happened: Authorities say Thompson and Matthews had been friends before an ongoing dispute started over $40 Thompson owed Matthews.
The men were riding in a car together just before midnight when Matthews threatened to beat up Thompson. He tried to pull him from the car when it stopped on Pine Street, but Thompson locked the doors and refused to come out.
When Thompson did emerge from the car, he shot Matthews twice, once in the chest and again in the shoulder, police said.
Assistant District Attorney Thomas Minett asked the judge to sentence Thompson to up to 20 years in prison.
"There was no reason for Will to die this way. Mr. Thompson says he doesn't recall the second shot, but in testimony we heard that after he shot Will once in the heart, he stepped over him and shot him again," Minett said.
About a dozen witnesses had been called in Thompson's trial before he agreed to the plea arrangement.
Thompson says he feared for his life that night and was concerned that Matthews and others would hunt him down if he walked away.
"Everybody can judge me and think I'm a monster. I have never caused any harm to anyone else. I know today is not my true sentence," Thompson said.