The family of the man shot and killed outside a Connell apartment last year spoke of his children left orphaned and his relatives left devastated during Friday’s sentencing hearing for Fernando Gonzalez.
The family’s statement was written by a sister of John Bounhomsavanh and read by a victim’s advocate for the court.
They pointed out how Bounhomsavanh, 32, will not be able to create memories with his three children, his siblings or his parents while Gonzalez, 19, will be out jail to be with his own family after his 81/2-year prison term.
“John will never get the chance to see his children graduate from school, walk his daughters down the aisle or be there for the birth of his grandchildren,” the statement said. “They will never again feel his hugs and affection. With each passing day, their memory of Daddy will fade away.”
Gonzalez’s defense attorney Larry Stephenson said his client deserved a lighter sentence because Gonzalez was defending himself and never intended to kill anyone when he used a stolen handgun to shoot through his apartment door after it was opened by one of two men with Bounhomsavanh that day in August 2014.
Gonzalez had sold drugs to the group the week before, and the victim and the men with him were outside his door for hours pounding to get in.
Gonzalez spoke briefly in court Friday, saying he was sorry for what happened but he was scared at the time and didn’t know what was happening.
“I’ve made some mistakes in my life. We all do,” Gonzalez said. “I just don’t know what else to say.”
But Superior Court Judge Vic VanderSchoor said the eight and a half years recommended by Franklin County prosecutors was appropriate.
“The fact remains that after an hourlong argument no one called the police,” VanderSchoor said. “They could have called the police.”
Gonzalez, who was 18 at the time of the shooting, pleaded guilty in late May to first-degree manslaughter and possession of a stolen gun.
Stephenson said his client’s plea was the result of Gonzalez’s fear that he could be convicted and face a stiffer penalty for the shooting. While Gonzalez has no previous felony convictions, he was part of a drug culture where participants are at risk of being crime victims, he said.
He questioned how his client could be held liable for Bounhomsavanh’s death when he and the two men had him trapped in his apartment and were carrying their own guns.
“They went over there and they weren’t looking to have cookies with him at all,” Stephenson said.
Prosecutor Shawn Sant acknowledged there were issues regarding evidence and witnesses in the case that made a plea deal with Gonzalez to a lesser crime logical. But society values life, and regardless of the circumstances that brought Bounhomsavanh to Gonzalez’s door, “It doesn’t necessarily mean he deserved to receive the fate he did,” he said.
Bounhomsavanh’s family is still struggling with the pain, grief and anger of his death, his family’s statement said. His mother cannot look at photos of him without crying, and both his parents suffer from nightmares.
His older sister noted that he was one of her best friends, and her children still do not understand where their uncle has gone.
“He may have never made a bigger impact on this world than he had at the time of his death ... ,” the statement said. “But to the people who know and love him, the impact he made on our lives is immeasurable.”