The mother and public defender of a Murray County teenager who pleaded guilty to charges related to a fatal wreck in 2010 said Thursday he is remorseful about the accident that killed a 6-year-old boy.
“It’s traumatic for everybody — their family, our family, everybody,” said Karen Morgan, the mother of Zachery Morgan Shoemaker who was charged in the accident. “He didn’t walk away from this and thought it was a joke and was never going to pay for it.”
Public defender Amanda McCoy said Shoemaker was “beyond remorseful and beyond consolable” at the sentencing on Feb. 10 in Whitfield County Superior Court after he pleaded guilty to second degree vehicular manslaughter.
“He cried throughout the entire plea,” McCoy said. “He told the family that he was sorry for their loss. The father made a comment that he ‘turned a deaf ear,’ and that couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Jason Todd Bryant of Chatsworth, who was driving his family on Lower Dawnville Road in December 2010 when Shoemaker, 19, of 81 Grand Prix Blvd. in Spring Place, crossed the centerline and hit them head-on, gave a victim’s impact statement in court regarding his son, Joshua Todd Bryant, who died from his injuries.
“ ... (Shoemaker) may have turned a deaf ear, but he had to listen to what I said,” Bryant stated in remarks about how the loss of his son affected the family.
“The answer ... was obvious to everyone in the courtroom,” McCoy said. “Zachery could not control himself, he was so distraught and upset about what happened. He told the family that he was sorry for the accident, and I think it’s important for the public to know it was an accident.”
She said Shoemaker’s life is “forever changed” because of the fatal collision.
“He is not the same person today as he was when this happened,” McCoy said. “He is going to have to go through a lot of things on his own to be able to continue with his life. Zachery collapsed outside the courtroom, he was so distraught.”
Betsey Flack, a public defender in Murray County who represented Shoemaker when he was a co-defendant on a burglary charge in July 2011, said on a conference call Shoemaker “is a kid, too.”
For his part in an incident where he drove a car from the scene where a co-defendant broke into a convenience store and stole some items, Shoemaker entered a guilty plea in Murray County Superior Court on Feb. 1 to a burglary charge. He was sentenced by visiting Senior Judge Bill Foster to 10 years of probation, with the Probation Detention Center as a condition of his sentence.
Shoemaker was sentenced by Judge William Boyett in Whitfield County Superior Court on Feb. 10 to 12 months in confinement after pleading guilty to a count of second degree vehicular homicide, which had a count of driving on the wrong side of the road merged into it. Both are misdemeanors. Boyett said the 12 months would be suspended upon entry into and successful completion of a probation detention center (PDC) program. Shoemaker remains in custody pending a bed becoming available at the PDC.
“He is a kid. The community needs to know this is a kid who is beyond consolable, he is extremely sorry and he himself is going to have to do a lot of things to move on with his life,” McCoy said. “He’s not a kid who is not remorseful and ‘turned a deaf ear’ ... he is keenly aware of their loss and endures pain on a daily basis for himself because of this.”
Morgan believes her son has already “been punished a lot.”
“He’s never going to get over this,” she said. “I’m his mother and I should know. I’m the one that hears him at night when he can’t sleep and when he’s going to counseling ... he’s been trying to get help from this. It was a careless mistake that anybody could have made, (that) I could have made. I can’t say that I’ve never just went off the road and accidentally went over the line. Luckily I never hit anybody.”