Prison ordered for adults in beating death
District Judge Dave Gamble handed down sentences Tuesday from 10 years in prison to probation for three defendants in the fatal Father’s Day beating of a 54-year-old Gardnerville man.
Gamble continued sentencing until Nov. 17 for 15-year-old Alexandrew Vail, described as the most culpable in the June 22 death of Terrence Joe Howell.
Vail, Anthony Gomez, 30, Jason Waugh, 28 and Jimmy Holman, 15, were arrested following Howell’s death.
The four are accused of confronting Howell on June 21 after an alleged argument between Howell’s and Gomez’s young daughters at their Gardnerville apartment complex.
According to reports, Howell was kicked, punched and shoved in a brief altercation with the four men. Witnesses said he walked home after the fight and showed no outward signs of trauma to deputies or medical center personnel.
The next morning, June 22, his daughter found Howell in the bathroom with labored breathing. He was taken to Carson-Tahoe Regional Medical Center where he died after surgery to remove his spleen. An autopsy revealed Howell bled to death when his ribs punctured his spleen.
Gamble continued Vail’s sentencing for two weeks to hear more of attorney Tod Young’s recommendation for incarcerating the 15-year-old.
“In reviewing the presentence investigation, I saw Mr. Vail as the most culpable in the death of Joe Howell despite the fact that he’s 15 years old,” Gamble said. “I held out very little hope which is very hard to say about a 15-year-old.”
Young said Vail had limited perception of the event that lead up to the beating, his role in Howell’s death and what awaits him in prison as a 15-year-old.
“He told me it would be OK if he goes to prison because they serve ‘hella’ big lasagna. His perception of prison – he’s a 15-year-old with about an 11-year-old’s mind. That’s the level he’s thinking on,” Young said. “I fear they’ll take a young man in prison and use him for whatever purposes they have in mind.”
Young said he was exploring the possibility of Vail being admitted to Rite of Passage, an alternative program for youthful offenders.
Prosecutor Tom Gregory said he had never recommended prison for a 15-year-old, but believed Vail deserved 4-to-10-years to safeguard the community.
He referred to Vail’s “romanticized image of being a thug.”
“He’s proud of being a Blood gang member, he’s proud of inflicting a beating on Terrence Howell and he’s proud of being sent to prison at age 15,” Gregory said.
Vail apologized for Howell’s death.
“I think it’s bad he died. I didn’t think he got killed. I never intended for him to die on me,” Vail said.
Gamble asked Vail to “picture what you want your life to look like.”
“Better than this,” Vail said.
He said he wanted to finish school and become a mechanic.
Gamble said he wasn’t sure what he would do with Vail on Nov. 17.
“My intent for this young man is that he be incarcerated for some time,” Gamble said.
Vail and Holman were tried as adults because of the nature of the offense, originally charged as open murder. Holman pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter.
The other three defendants pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter.
Gomez was sentenced to eight years in prison with the possibility of parole in 28 months.
“You’re going to be away from your children for a substantial period of time,” Gamble said. “I hope you recognize violence is not the answer to sociological problems between kids.”
“I’m sorry. I never intended for that to happen. I thought I was doing the right thing,” Gomez said. “I could have handled it differently. I was so angry. I feel sorry for the (Howell) family. I took someone’s life. I can’t take that day back.”
Holman, Gomez’s stepson, was sentenced to a suspended 4-year prison term. Gamble placed him on five years probation.
The judge directed probation officials to craft a program more suited to a 15-year-old than adult supervision.
“I’m concerned about a juvenile on adult probation,” Gamble said. “He’s being treated as an adult, and he should be. If he violates, I would have no problem sending him to adult prison. But I would ask parole and probation to look at potential placement or treatment in a juvenile system as a better fit for Mr. Holman.”
Gamble ordered Holman to earn his general equivalency diploma, attend the victim’s impact panel, and complete any substance abuse, alcohol or anger management ordered by the court.
“I believe you know (Howell’s daughter) and the history she went through,” Gamble said. “Her father, the person she lived with every day of her life, is dead, and you had a hand in that. You have to change your life and not be involved in this rotten lifestyle and violence you’ve immersed yourself in. If that doesn’t lead to a change in you, I will have no qualms at all about sending you to prison.”
Waugh received the longest sentence, up to 10 years in prison.
“I think the extent of violence in this case came from Mr. Waugh,” Gamble said.
“If you, yourself, will objectively look back at the last three years, and see the radical dichotomy. You can be a tender, gentle person, or you use your fists in a very natural progression until Joe Howell dies,” Gamble said.
Gamble pointed out Waugh’s numerous arrests for domestic battery and other violent crimes.
“It looks to me that Waugh’s statement to deputies that he didn’t need a weapon was true,” Gamble said.