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Published: Thursday, 12/28/2000

Michigan boy gets life term

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

ADRIAN - Filled with rage and choking back sobs, Richard Myres told a judge his teenage grandson essentially killed him as well as his wife the day the boy shot the 59-year-old woman.

Mr. Myres, who was at Justin Gibson's sentencing yesterday, then demanded that the youth be put in prison for the rest of his life.

Lenawee County Circuit Judge Timothy Pickard sentenced Gibson, 16, to life in prison for the June 30 murder of his grandmother, Betty Lou Myres. The Pittsford, Mich., teen pleaded guilty Nov. 8 to second-degree murder.

“It didn't have to be this way - we tried and tried and tried,” Mr. Myres cried out as deputies led the shackled boy away. “Just remember, I'm dead.”

Gibson shot his grandmother in the back of the head with a family owned 22-caliber rifle. He left the woman's crumpled body in the raised bucket of a front-end loader on the Myres's rural Rollin Township property, just west of Adrian.

Police said he had by that time dug her grave - a hole big enough for two people.

Gibson said little during the sentencing and hung his head low to avoid the tearful gazes of his family. Only when asked by the judge whether he had anything to say did the youth speak.

“There's nothing I can do that can change what I've done,” he said softly through tears. “I'm sorry I can't change it.”

Family members believe Gibson murdered his grandmother in a plot to steal money, but the teenager has never publicly given a reason for his actions. His tearful apology was the first remorse family members said they've seen.

Never once did he address or look at his family.

Standing before the judge, Mr. Myres angrily asked his grandson questions about the final moments of his wife's life.

“After you killed her, did you pick her up and put her in the bucket, or did you drag her?” he asked, glaring at the boy, who sat crying with his head hanging.

He then questioned Gibson about how the woman died, and if it was instantly. “I need to know,” he said.

The question he did not ask was one other family members continue to struggle with, “Why?”

Gibson has been in trouble with the law before and had been caught stealing family vehicles and driving without a license. He had also assaulted his elder teenage sister, family members have said.

Now family members, 12 of whom were huddled close together on a courtroom bench, do not want Gibson to have a chance to hurt anyone else. Connie Kraus, Gibson's aunt, said she feared the teenager was capable of murdering another relative. She told the judge that for her family's peace of mind, her nephew should never be allowed out of jail.

“Mom's murder was not an accident. It was a plan,” she said. “If he could kill Mom, he could kill anybody.”

Gibson will serve the first part of his sentence in the juvenile section of an Ionia, Mich., prison, just northwest of Lansing. He will likely be transferred to another prison once older, assistant county prosecutor Doug Hartung said. He will not be eligible for parole for at least 15 years and will only be paroled under Judge Pickard's, or his successor's, discretion.

Judge Pickard sentenced the teen as an adult after listening to the remarks of family members and reading a letter sent by the murdered woman's friend. He told Gibson he hopes the youth will some day come to terms with what he had done.

“What you've done here has affected an entire family, your entire family, that's what is so hard to believe,” he said. “I have to protect your family and the rest of society.”

The judge was not able to answer the family's questions as to why Mrs. Myres was gunned down by her own grandson. But he did pass on word that the woman did not suffer.

“[Gibson] did say she died instantly,” Judge Pickard told Mr. Myres after Gibson's attorney, John Baker, whispered the information to him. “I wanted you to know that.”



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