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Sentence in ‘mobbing’ offers victim’s widow potential relief

Jeremiah King enters the courtroom Wednesday just ahead of his sentencing in the fatal shooting of Steven Gerecke. ADOLPHE PIERRE-LOUIS/JOURNAL

Jeremiah King enters the courtroom Wednesday just ahead of his sentencing in the fatal shooting of Steven Gerecke. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In the 607 days since her husband was shot to death in her driveway, Vinnie Gerecke said she’s learned she has a “tremendous capacity for hate.”

When she heard that Jeremiah King, the teen convicted of Steven Gerecke’s murder, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Wednesday, she smiled.

“I don’t think anyone has seen a smile on my face in a while,” Vinnie Gerecke said following a crowded and lengthy sentencing in state District Court in which Judge Brett Loveless handed down the maximum penalty. “But I have a smile today.”

King and at least five other Albuquerque teens were “mobbing,” or breaking into homes and cars, when they encountered Gerecke. King opened fire.

The hearing brings King’s case to a close. King pleaded guilty in December to first-degree murder and under the terms of his agreement was eligible for a sentence of up to 25 years. Another teen involved, who was charged as a juvenile, has also been sentenced, but four more boys convicted of lesser crimes surrounding Gerecke’s death are still wading through the court system.

Still, Vinnie Gerecke said she can finally see the end of the justice process approaching, which is a relief.

She told Loveless that she has spent around 550 days placing curses on King and his family “for a 1,000 years” with the hope that they and their descendants will “feel the pain that we do for as long as they live.”

“I have a tremendous capacity for hate,” she said. “And I have a tremendous capacity to never forgive. Ever ever. And my curses will go on until the last breath I take.”

Tom Clark, King’s attorney, said the Gerecke family “has every right to hate” and “curse his existence,” and he assured them that King would “pay dearly” for his crime.

“Every day in the Department of Corrections is a hellish day,” he said. “I know there are members of this audience who want hell rained down on my client. They’ll get their wish.”

King, Clark said, will enter the DOC without the benefit of gang protection and having never spent time in an adult facility.

He emphasized the fact that King, now 18, was just 16 at the time of the shooting. And unlike many of the violent defendants he represents, King was “soft.”

“He exhibited sadness and despair,” Clark said. “All of the things you would expect from a kid who was so far out of his element.”

In a short statement to the court, King apologized repeatedly.

“I know I made the biggest mistake of my life and I can’t change it,” he said. His family and friends filled two rows in the courtroom.

His mother painted a different picture of King. Though sobs, she said her son is hardworking and loving and practiced the traditions of his Santo Domingo Pueblo. She blamed negative influences, adolescent judgment errors and bad luck for his crime.

“Jeremiah is of good moral character,” she told Loveless. “I realize it might be hard to believe that given the circumstances, but it is true nevertheless.”

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