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Gainesville man sentenced in 2018 murder of girlfriend
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Christopher Vargas-Zayas looks back into the courtroom gallery Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021, in Hall County Superior Court during his murder trial for the 2018 fatal shooting of Carly Andrews. - photo by Scott Rogers

Susan Andrews stepped before Superior Court Judge Clint Bearden and asked for the harshest punishment possible for Christopher Vargas-Zayas, a Gainesville man convicted in November of fatally shooting her daughter.

Bearden sentenced Vargas-Zayas, 24, to life in prison plus five years with the chance of parole in the Sept. 6, 2018, shooting of Carly Andrews.

Parole cannot be considered until Vargas-Zayas serves at least 30 years. 

Vargas-Zayas was convicted Nov. 18 of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault under the Family Violence Act and two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission

Susan Andrews told the judge that her family has been deprived of seeing the 26-year-old Carly grow into the woman she would become.

“I hope he spends the rest of his life, every moment of his day, thinking about what he did,”

Susan Andrews said.

Susan Andrews ended her statement to the court with, “Rest in peace, Carly. I love you.”

Vargas-Zayas addressed Bearden and the Andrews family, saying he was not a bad person and hoped the court would grant him a second chance.

“I’m really sorry for what happened, and I wish I could take it back, but I can’t,” Vargas-Zayas said.

Similar to the weeklong trial, handfuls of supporters for either Vargas-Zayas or Andrews sat on opposite sides of Bearden’s courtroom. Bearden heard from Vargas-Zayas’ parents and other family members.

Vargas-Zayas’ father expressed his condolences to the Andrews family, saying it was unfortunate that the two families met under these circumstances.

The defendant’s mother noted her struggles to see and talk with Vargas-Zayas since his incarceration. She and defense attorney David West told Bearden that Vargas-Zayas was stabbed in the right eye with a pencil by another inmate.

“A long-term incarceration in prison does not rehabilitate anyone. It is to bury someone and their family alive,” Vargas-Zayas’ mother said.

She begged the judge that she might one day “before my last breath” bring Christopher home for Christmas.

“You may see him as a threat, but I see him as a broken-down boy that tragically lost a loved one, a boy that is longing to hug his mother once more, a loving, kind-hearted human being that is always willing to help others,” Vargas-Zayas’ aunt said.

West noted how the number of years to be served before parole consideration has increased over the years. Before July 1, 2006, parole-eligible offenders could be considered after 14 years, according to the State Board of Pardons and Paroles.

“Imagine what suffering possibly awaits him in a prison system,” West said, referencing his client’s eye injury.

West said he believed the parole board would be best suited to make the decision on returning Vargas-Zayas back to society. Assistant District Attorney Anna Fowler, however, said she believed Bearden would be in the best position, having listened to all of the evidence in the trial.

Fowler said she believed that Vargas-Zayas has not shown that he has accepted responsibility.

“When he put his finger on the trigger of that gun, pointed it at Carly and shot, he forfeited his right to have the happy life that I’m sure his family and he wanted to have,” Fowler said.

Before making his judgment on parole, Bearden said he had to weigh his decision with other cases that have come before his court and the community.