RALEIGH (WTVD) --Tajhe Mials' mother said up until Monday, for her, forgiveness was easy.
That is how Tina Davis describes her feelings as she stood up in court to face the man who pleaded guilty in the stabbing death of her 16-year-old son.
Jerome Lee Gardner stood in a Wake County courtroom as a judge accepted his plea deal and sentenced him to 17 years in prison for second-degree murder.
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Two years ago, right after the big Fourth of July fireworks celebration in downtown Raleigh, police responded to a stabbing at the intersection of South Wilmington and Cabarrus streets.
When they arrived on scene they found the teenaged victim. Mials later died from his injuries at WakeMed.
Police later arrested Gardner, who 20 at the time.
Investigators said there was a fight over a girl. Gardner's attorney explained in court that Mials was actually fighting with Gardner's younger brother and that Gardner stepped in to defend his brother.
Still, Judge Donald Stephens asked this question in court, "What in the world was he doing carrying a knife on a sheath around his neck that night?"
There was no answer to that question, only an apology from Gardner, who briefly stood to apologize to Mials' family and to say he never intended to take a life that night.
Before the judge handed down his sentence, Mials' mother told him how she and her husband almost didn't let their son go downtown that night, but changed their minds. She described her son as someone who made her laugh and as someone who now she'll never get to see drive a car or go to prom.
"It was always him that was supposed to bury me," Davis said.
While Mials' family and the assistant district attorney spoke about what went wrong that night and how much of tragedy Mials' death is, Gardner's attorney talked about his upbringing. He told the court how his client dropped out of school in the eighth grade to take care of his younger siblings while their mother worked long hours.
He said that while nothing excuses what happened that night two years ago, he said his client's instinct to take care of his younger brother was the driving force of what happened. He described his client as a good person who made a bad decision.
And as the pain of loss was evident on her face, Tina Davis still turned to Gardner, and through tears said, "I just pray for you."
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