A 23-year-old man will spend 13 years in prison for stabbing his grandfather several times in the back while trying to get money for heroin.
Christopher Carter was sentenced Tuesday to a total of 45 years in prison with 32 years suspended after pleading guilty in August to malicious wounding, robbery and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in the York County Circuit Court.
Carter was looking for money and valuables on March 21 when he stabbed his grandfather several times, stole a gun he had in his pocket and took his car to Richmond, where he did four or five grams of heroin, according to evidence and testimony laid out in court Tuesday.
“This is a case in which the court can easily deviate upwards from the plea agreement guidelines,” Circuit Court Judge Richard Rizk said Tuesday. “This is also a betrayal of those who have raised you and taken care of you your entire life…While I see a lot of heroin cases, I don’t see many heroin cases with results like this.”
The plea agreement, which Carter entered into Aug. 16 when he pleaded guilty to the three felonies, gives a sentence range of eight years and three months to 13 years in prison. Although the judge is not required to stay within the guidelines, Rizk sentenced Carter to 13 years.
Rizk also revoked and re-suspended 24 years and three months of a previous sentence for three gun-related charges and five drug charges, all of which Carter pleaded guilty to in April 2012.
“I have to live with this nightmare every day,” Carter said before hearing his sentence. “I feel like this is also a sentence for my grandparents.”
According to case evidence, Carter was taking money and valuable items from the house he lived in with his grandparents in Seaford when he stabbed his grandfather several times in the back. His grandfather testified that he had been cleaning the kitty litter box at the time.
“It was a pretty violent time,” his grandfather testified. “I think it was more than just drugs, it was the demon inside him or something.”
Police reports say Carter then threatened his grandmother with a gun he had taken from his grandfather and drove his grandfather’s car to Richmond. Carter’s grandfather and grandmother are 68 and 73 years old, respectively.
“You know the saying don’t bring a knife to a gun fight?” his grandfather said. “Well that one’s wrong, because I had a gun that night and I lost that fight.”
“I’m not hurt in any way except I guess my feelings, but that takes time,” he added, saying he had no permanent injuries from the stabbing.
During his testimony, Carter told the court he did four or five grams of heroin in a hotel after the stabbing, adding that he believes the entire incident was fueled by his heroin addiction. Carter said he first picked up the heroin addiction while serving a prison sentence in the Powhatan Correctional Center.
“It begins with change from the inside,” Rizk said to Carter. “You have let the mental health issues and substance abuse dictate your behavior.”
Although Carter’s grandparents were victims of the incident, they both testified in support of their grandson at his sentencing, asking Rizk for “grace and mercy.” The couple has raised Carter since he was about five years old, the grandmother said during a tearful testimony, describing him as a “normal and happy child” until he was 14 years old.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney William Boyle asked both grandparents if they had always provided Carter with a place to stay, meals and money despite his criminal record, which both confirmed in their testimonies. His grandmother said they had tried to find treatment programs for Carter’s addiction, but “couldn’t find a place for him to go.”
Carter’s grandfather also testified that, one time, he had bought Carter heroin.
“Chris was in so much pain,” his grandmother said. “We don’t like to see him suffer like that.”
“One time, I thought he was going to die, so I gave him money to go get some,” his grandfather added. According to his grandfather, Carter developed diabetes between the ages of nine and 11, which is when he was first introduced to needles.
Carter’s grandmother told the court she didn’t believe Carter would have killed her and her husband, adding “he would’ve hurt himself before he hurt us.”
A heavy sentence
Although the plea agreement suggested Carter be sentenced to a term between eight years and three months and 13 years in prison, Boyle requested Rizk consider a longer term in prison.
“Rather than you get sick [from withdrawal], you chose to stab your grandfather and get money,” Boyle said. “You can’t be that crazy dope sick to drive to Richmond and buy drugs afterward.”
Carter’s defense attorney, Ed Ferreira, argued that Carter had shown true remorse for his actions, something both Carter’s current girlfriend and a pastor attested to during testimony at the sentencing.
“This is a heartbreaking case, especially just a few days before Christmas,” Ferreira said. “This crime is completely out of character for Christopher – he doesn’t even have a misdemeanor assault on his record.”
Boyle, however, asked the “court to step back and balance what you see today with what happened.”
And while Carter’s grandparents were victims of the incident, they both testified in support of their grandson.
“The truth is, he probably wouldn’t be alive if this hadn’t happened,” his grandfather said of the stabbing. “He probably would have overdosed by now or something…Between heroin and [an ex-girlfriend], he didn’t have a chance.”
“I don’t doubt, if nothing else, they love their grandson very much,” Boyle said during the prosecution’s closing argument. “But I am comfortable saying they have contributed in some way to this. They have enabled this in some way.”
Fearing can be reached at 207-975-5459.