1103GAMERGAINESVILLEAUDMillerListen to Gainesville coach Bruce Miller talk about his team making the Class AAA state playoffs.
Saying she had few options, a judge sentenced a Gainesville teenager to life in prison Thursday in the 2006 shooting death of a restaurant worker.
Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin paused in midsentence and her voice briefly wavered with emotion as she pronounced the sentence for 17-year-old Chaz Stringer.
"The General Assembly of the state of Georgia has mandated by law that I impose a sentence of life in prison, therefore I do that," Gosselin said.
A Hall County jury found Stringer guilty of murder last week in the shooting death of 29-year-old Victor Manuel "Charlie" De La Rosa at Garcia’s Restaurant on Athens Street.
The judge told Stringer on Thursday that she usually hopes something constructive will result from the sentences she gives, whether they protect society or offer a defendant a life-changing path.
"There’s very little of that satisfaction in this sentencing today," Gosselin said.
Stringer, who stood stone-faced as the sentence was pronounced, declined to address the court. He knew since his conviction on Saturday that the sentence would be life. All murder convictions carry an automatic life sentence in Georgia.
Stringer, who was 15 at the time of the murder, will be eligible for parole in 14 years.
Stringer’s mother, father, and other relatives looked on from the gallery but did not speak during the brief sentencing hearing.
Earlier in the hearing, Northeastern Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Juliet Aldridge read aloud a letter De La Rosa’s mother wrote to the district attorney’s office in May.
"Charlie, as he was known by all, was a hard worker and honest young man, and he never hurt anyone," Rosa Maria De La Rosa-Martinez wrote in a letter from Durango, Mexico, that was translated by a court interpreter. "We were not worried about him working in that country, being that he was a good guy. We never even imagined something like this could happen."
According to trial testimony, Charlie De La Rosa was shot to death on June 8, 2006, after Stringer entered the restaurant wearing a mask and holding a small gun, demanding money. De La Rosa thought the robbery was a joke and pushed the gun aside, smiling. He died from a gunshot wound to the chest.
His mother wrote, "The person who did this to my son cannot even imagine the hurt that he has caused us, because by killing him, he also killed all of our hopes, leaving in our hearts and in our home sadness, unpleasantness and pain, but above all, bitterness with life."
Rosa Maria De La Rosa-Martinez wrote that while her son’s killer may repent and ask God for forgiveness, "We will never forgive what he did to us, and all we can do is pray to God that the honorable judge will be just, and apply the punishment he deserves."
Afterward, the murder victim’s friend and coworker said the conviction and sentence brought him little satisfaction.
"I want Charlie back," said 23-year-old Israel Garcia, who witnessed the shooting and testified at trial.
Asked what he thought of a 17-year-old serving a sentence of life in prison, Garcia said, "I would not want to be in his place. God help him."