JASPER, Texas — Family members of a man killed in 2017 left a Jasper County courtroom frustrated and confused after learning the man responsible would serve no prison time.
Todd Whitehead hit Jacob Gentry with a car in 2017 after a fight over a woman. Gentry died a few days later at a Houston-area hospital.
One by one, family members of Gentry pleaded with a judge to take the case to trial instead of settling for a plea deal, but the decision had already been made.
Whitehead plead guilty to “accident involving death,” giving him ten years deferred adjudication. This means he will be on probation for ten years.
“We didn’t get any kind of justice. They didn’t hear us,” Wendy Street, Gentry’s mother said. “I think of all the things, of all the hopes and dreams that he had, and we don't get that anymore. We get a tombstone. He gets to walk out."
If Whitehead completes all the terms and conditions without incident, he will be discharged from deferred adjudication. The charge will also be cleared from his record.
Whitehead will also have to spend about a year in a rehab facility. Street said the plea bargain is not good enough.
“I don't understand that, and I'm not ever going to understand that,” Street said. “I'm never ever going to be okay with that because I don't feel that they care about my son.”
The victim’s mother said the unfair sentence had added to the list of things she is struggling with ever since her son’s death.
“I'm wanting to forgive this boy because not for him, for me, because I said I struggled,” Street said. “I have struggled with God. I've struggled with being angry. I struggled with trying to figure out how I'm ever going to be ok without my son.”
The grieving mother held nothing back when she spoke in court. Street ended her victim impact statement to the judge saying in part, “I don’t think this is right and I don’t think this is fair, and I’m hoping you can do something about that.”
Whitehead’s attorney, Matt Morian, said the plea will give his client a second chance at life.
“That's not to get anything confused here, because as that charge said, accident, and that's what he plead to, that he plead guilty to an accident,” Morian said.
The attorney said that justice is not about punishment.
“There needs to be justice for victims of crimes, but that justice is equally as important for those charged with crimes as well," Morian said.
Gentry’s family members feel the punishment was not harsh enough because they are left with having a void where their loved one used to be.
“And there's always going to be that void at the table,” Street said. “Christmas birthdays, Saturday, you know, some seasons, changing the seasons.”
Gentry’s family said they will continue to remember his pure heart. The victim’s father said his son always tried to make people smile and laugh.
12News reached out to the Jasper County District Attorney’s Office for comment but did not hear back in time for this article.