PLATTSMOUTH — Tired, irritable and coming down from a cough-suppressant induced high, Gregory Fester II and his girlfriend, Jessica Reid, looked for a house suitable to rob.
It was Easter 2006, late at night or maybe early the next morning. They were in a stolen truck on a road trip which began in Wisconsin and extended into Iowa, Nebraska and eventually Louisiana.
Reid, then 17, would point out a promising house, which Fester would find something wrong with.
They needed a place where no one was at home, where it looked like they could find some money to buy gas and food. After perhaps half an hour, Fester pointed out the rural Murdock farmhouse belonging to Wayne and Sharmon Stock.
“I thought we might have gotten lucky with a huge house with no one home,” Reid wrote in a statement, which District Judge Randall Rehmeier read during Reid and Fester’s sentencing Monday.
Everyone in Murdock and Cass County knows now that Wayne and Sharmon were home, that a son found them shot to death April 17.
Monday, Fester and Reid were each given two consecutive life sentences for killing Wayne, a respected farmer and business owner, and Sharmon, a former teacher who was caring for her elderly mother.
In January, Reid and Fester plead guilty to two counts each of second-degree murder. In addition, Fester plead guilty to one count of use of a firearm to commit a felony, for which he received a 10-20 year sentence on Monday.
The Stocks were active in their church and community, Cass County Attorney Nathan Cox said during Monday’s hearing. They were parents of three, grandparents of four. They were close with their large extended family, too.
“More than once, I heard that they were the mortar that held the family together,” Cox said, “and that has been torn away.”
More than 70 people filled the courtroom, including the Stocks’ children — Steve Stock, Tami Vance and Andrew Stock — who had been absent from the earlier hearings.
Monday brought some closure, their youngest son, Andrew, said after the sentencing.
It also shed some light on what happened inside the farmhouse the night the Stocks died. According to Cox, what happened is this:
Early the morning of April 17, 2006, Reid and Fester pulled into the the Stocks’ driveway and loaded two shotguns in case they encountered dogs or an armed homeowner. They walked to the back of the house, where they looked for a place to enter. Fester found an unlocked window and climbed inside, then let Reid in through a door.
Reid and Fester went upstairs to the room where Wayne and Sharmon Stock were sleeping. Either Reid or Fester turned on a light, and Fester pointed his shotgun and shot Wayne Stock, hitting him in the leg.
Wayne got out of bed and began to struggle with Fester. Fester looked at Reid and asked her to help. She fired her gun. It is unclear whether Reid’s shot killed Wayne Stock or if Fester shot him again.
Sharmon, meanwhile, had woken up. She had the phone in her hand. Someone — Reid wrote in her statement it was Fester — shot her in the face. Sharmon screamed.
Then Reid and Fester fled.
In the statement Rehmeier read in court Monday, Reid wrote that she still thinks about Sharmon Stock’s scream, “a piercing scream that wakes me up often.”
Reid has thought a lot about about that night, said her attorney, Tom Olsen.
During Monday’s hearing, Olsen painted Reid as someone who has changed greatly since her arrest. She has has started attending Bible studies and worked toward her G.E.D., drawing praise from her instructors in both, he said.
She’s cooperated with investigators, Olsen said, and she’s talked about her desire to apologize to the Stocks’ family, coupled with a concern that doing so would be hurtful.
In fact, he said, she was an honor roll student with no criminal history until 2004, when her mother and stepfather divorced. And then she started skipping school, breaking into cars and dating Fester.
“It’s not an excuse,” Olsen said of the divorce. “It’s merely for the purpose of explaining how and why.”
Cox disagreed that Reid had changed, saying she had a history of lying when she saw that she could benefit from doing so.
And then, there’s the matter of the letters.
In a journal entry and a letter to Fester, Reid wrote that she had killed someone and that she had “loved” it.
“She was sprayed with the blood of the victim, and subsequently was able to say she loved it,” Cox said.
Cox described Fester as even more troubled, as someone with an extensive criminal history, including sexually assaulting a younger family member.
Fester has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyper-activity disorder, depression, adjustment disorder, personality disorder, alcohol dependence and transvestite fetishism, Cox said.
“This is a train wreck of a life,” Cox said.
In the end, Rehmeier agreed, saying that protecting society figured into Fester’s two life sentences.
Just before he was sentenced, Fester read from a crumpled piece of paper, his hands shaking.
He said he was sorry, that he felt sorry every day for what he did to the Stocks.
“They are gone, and all I want to do is take that day back,” he said.
Reid didn’t prepare a statement but asked to address the Stocks, too.
“I just want to say I’m deeply sorry for all the pain I’ve caused,” she said, fighting tears.
No one has felt that pain more deeply than Andrew Stock, who discovered his parents’ bodies, who still wakes up in the night and patrols his own home to make sure no one has broken in.
Words can’t describe the past year, said his sister, Tami Vance.
But Andrew Stock and his siblings were relieved Monday when both Reid and Fester received maximum sentences.
“We’re glad that justice was served,” he said.
Reach Cara Pesek at 473-7361 or firstname.lastname@example.org.