Teens sentenced for Dudley murder
By Lee Williams
Published in News on September 8, 2006 1:51 PM
A Wayne County Superior Court Judge ruled Thursday that three teens who murdered a Dudley man with an SKS assault rifle over his stash of marijuana and drug money will spend the next eight to 10 years behind bars.
Michael Omar Mozingo, 19, of Brentwood Drive, Dudley; Donavan Ray Lofton, 19, of Running Deer Circle, Dudley; and James Marquis Bowden, 18, of Wayne Memorial Drive, faced first-degree murder, attempted armed robbery and conspiracy to commit armed robbery charges in connection with the Oct. 15, 2004, murder of 23-year-old Billy Joe Gregory.
After reaching a plea agreement with the Wayne County District Attorney's Office, the teens pleaded guilty to only second-degree murder and attempted armed robbery. Wayne County Assistant District Attorney Claud Ferguson offered the plea agreement in exchange for their guilty pleas.
Wayne County Superior Court Judge Jerry Braswell accepted the plea during a sentencing hearing held at about 2:30 p.m. at the Wayne County Court-house, but not before criticizing the teens harshly for their involvement.
"No life that is lost in this manner is anything that we can have positive things to say about," Braswell said. "It's particularly disturbing when your family and those who care about you do all the right things."
Braswell said their parents required them to go to school and church, and they remained supportive of the teens.
"They did all the right things," Braswell said. "What do they get for their efforts, but three young men that decide to act like hoodlums. Quite frankly, they deserve better."
Braswell added guns and teens and guns and drugs don't mix well.
Friends and family of the teens filled two aisles. Some spoke on behalf of the teens, others sat quietly as the hour-long hearing proceeded. Bobby Jean Lane of Goldsboro, the mother of Gregory, who was called B.J., also was present. The grief of losing her son was chiseled on her face.
Lofton was the first to offer condolences to Mrs. Lane and to express remorse for his involvement in the murder. His eyes were red, and his voice trembled as he spoke.
"I'm very sorry for what I've done," Lofton said. "I wish that I could bring your son back. I can't say much that would bring your son back, but I am very, very sorry."
One by one, the other teens followed suit, offering condolences and remorse for their participation in the crime. Bowden, who confessed he was the gunman, but later recanted, asked Mrs. Lane for forgiveness. Each time the teens spoke, Mrs. Lane dabbed her eyes, rocked in her seat and shook her head in disagreement.
By the time Mrs. Lane was asked to speak on her son's behalf, the pain seemed to overwhelm her, and she dissolved into tears.
"I can't do it," she sobbed while clinging to the back of the seat in front of her as her friend rubbed her back. Her friend cried, too.
Before the hearing, Mrs. Lane said she believed the sentences would be unfair.
"They'll get off easy, and I'll still have to suffer," she said.
She bolted from the courtroom after the hearing was over.
In addition to serving a minimum of eight, but no more than 10 years in prison, the teens were ordered to pay restitution to the family.
Braswell said the teens would receive credit for time served in jail. After completing two years in prison, the teens will be eligible for the work release program if they successfully completed their high-school equivalency program.
As sheriff's deputies escorted the teens back to confinement, Mozingo and Bowden turned around, smiled at their family and friends and threw up two fingers to say goodbye. Some of their family and friends cried.
Lofton hung back.
The judge granted Lofton time to spend with his newborn son in a holding cell before he was taken away. Lofton told the judge his baby was born while he was in jail during the last two years, and he never had a chance to hold him or spend time with his son.
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