Raleigh, N.C. — A Holly Springs man was convicted Thursday of killing a man he met during a chance encounter last year on a Raleigh roadside.
A Wake County jury took about two days to reach a verdict in the case of Samuel Gideon, 36, who was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the stabbing death of Eleazar Herrera. Gideon was charged with second-degree murder, but the jury was allowed to consider voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.
Gideon was sentenced to a minimum of 8.75 years in prison, with a maximum of 11.5 years, and credit for time served. He said he will appeal.
Investigators said Herrera, 20, was with his cousins on their way home the morning of Jan. 15, 2012, when they noticed a wrecked GMC Envoy and stopped to help. Police said Gideon arrived at the scene with another man, Christopher Todd Rochelle, there was some kind of argument and Herrera was stabbed.
In closing arguments, defense attorney Tommy Manning said Herrera was not the good Samaritan he has been portrayed to be. He said Herrera was drunk and angry when he confronted Gideon and Rochelle because he thought the pair had nearly hit his car.
But the state argued the slaying was not in self-defense. Prosecutor David Saacks said Gideon and Rochelle had weapons; Herrera did not.
Gideon showed no emotion when the verdict was read. His reaction was a sharp contrast to Tuesday, when he was removed from the courtroom after yelling at Saacks during closing arguments. The enraged defendant rose out of his seat and pointed at Saacks, saying, “You want a conviction. I was there. I had a green coat on.”
He returned to court Wednesday in restraints, which were removed after he apologized to Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson for his outburst.
Gideon and Rochelle were arrested more than six months after the stabbing. In court, Herrera's mother, Nury Brache, described the stress her family endured during that time.
"This affected our lives greatly for six months," she said through an interpreter. "We couldn't sleep wondering who killed my son."
Brache said she would run errands and wonder whether every person she saw was her son's killer.
"Every day, I kneel down asking God," she said.
Gideon requested to leave the courtroom during statements from Brache and Elias Herrera – Eleazar's older brother – that brought some jurors to tears. He returned for the sentencing.
Gideon's mother called to him as he was taken from the courtroom. "I love you. I love you, son," she said.
Gideon has a criminal record dating back to 1997. It includes convictions for possession of stolen goods, assault on a female and resisting a law enforcement officer.
Rochelle is also charged in the case. His trial has not begun.