03/20/07 — Alston pleads guilty in shooting

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Alston pleads guilty in shooting

By Lee Williams
Published in News on March 20, 2007 1:58 PM

Tim Alston never had the chance to tell his friend and classmate how much he meant to him and that he was sorry he played a hand in his death.

So, he stood up at the defense table Monday, turned around and told John Paul Setliff's parents what he would never have a chance to tell his "buddy."

Alston, 18, of White Oak Road, pleaded guilty to one count of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the 2006 death of 17-year-old John Paul Setliff, a student and athlete at Charles B. Aycock High School.

Before the teen was led out of the courtroom, Alston apologized to Setliff's parents for their loss and said that if he could take back the whole incident, he would, his mother, Teresa Alston recalled.

"Not only have they lost a beloved son," she said. "He lost a friend and a teammate."

The plea bargain was reached between Wayne County Assistant District Attorney Jan Kroboth and Alston's defense attorney, Geoff Hulse.

Wayne County Superior Court Judge Gregory Weeks accepted the plea and sentenced Alston to 13 to 16 months in prison. He will receive credit for the time he served.

Kroboth called the case "emotional."

"I don't think there was a dry eye in the courtroom," Ms. Kroboth said. "It was sad. There were no winners."

Alston originally faced one count of second-degree murder. However, the charge was reduced to involuntary manslaughter given the circumstances of the case.

According to sheriff's reports, Setliff was shot as Alston and two other teens were sitting in a car on Albert Drive about 2:35 a.m. May 29. Alston was allegedly playing with a .357 caliber handgun when it went off and struck Setliff once in the chest.

Drugs and alcohol played a factor in the case, officials said.

Setliff was taken to Wayne Memorial Hospital, where they conducted emergency surgery to save the teen. However, he died on the operating table, according to an autopsy report.

Mrs. Alston said the incident has taken a toll on both families.

Alston was a standout football and basketball player and was being pursued by several college scouts. But his chance of winning a scholarship and pursuing his dream as a sports star ended that day.

Alston allegedly stole the gun from his grandfather's gun box and wanted to show it off to his friends. Mrs. Alston and Alston's grandfather, Robert Lee, said it's something Alston deeply regrets.

"It was a dumb choice," Lee said. "But I want people to know that I love my grandson and my heart goes out to the family, and I hope other kids can learn something from this situation."

Mrs. Alston said her son was a leader and she was stunned he felt he had to impress his friends in such a way.

"Be yourself," she said she will tell other children. "If you feel like you have to impress somebody -- run."

Mrs. Alston said her son was heartbroken and deeply depressed over the incident and going to court Monday gave him a chance to let go of his bottled up emotions. But he will never get over losing his friend.

"It's not over for him," she said. "It will never be over, but this is the beginning of his healing."