A Winston-Salem man convicted of robbing and fatally shooting two men within weeks of each other was re-sentenced Wednesday to spend at least 35 years in prison.
Franklin Bowden Jr., 31, pleaded guilty in 2006 to two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of armed robbery connected to the deaths of Gerardo Santiago-Arias and Michael Monte Jordan. Forsyth County prosecutors said that Bowden, who was 15 at the time, shot both men to death in separate incidents two weeks apart and robbed them. Santiago-Arias was shot five times and found in the woods at Happy Hills Garden in March 2004. Jordan was shot in the neck in April 2004.
Judge David Hall of Forsyth Superior Court handed down four consecutive sentences that totaled a minimum of 35 years and a maximum of 45 years. Bowden will get credit for the prison time he has already served.
The re-sentencing Wednesday was a result of an appeal Bowden filed in Forsyth Superior Court. In court papers, Bowden alleged that his trial attorneys, Lisa Costner and Jerry Jordan, met with him for only 2.6 hours over a two-year period, failed to pursue a self-defense claim and misrepresented a plea deal that he thought would guarantee a 13-year prison sentence. Bowden argued that Costner and Jordan were so ineffective that his murder convictions should be vacated.
Hall issued a ruling in August that upheld the murder convictions but called for a new sentencing hearing after finding that Costner and Jordan failed to obtain school records from Parkland High School that might have led to a more lenient sentence. Those records indicated that Bowden took “Learning Disabled” classes and had a low grade-point average.
Don D. Carter, Bowden’s attorney, said Bowden is not the same 15-year-old boy who committed the murders. Bowden was immature and was using marijuana, which made it easier for him to make bad decisions, Carter said.
Carter said that evidence in the case indicated that Jordan had a gun, and that both Jordan and Bowden were out the night of the shooting doing things they shouldn’t have been doing.
“He regrets that this ever happened,” he told Hall. “He regrets it on a level that, unless you are in it, you could never understand.”
Assistant District Attorney Penn Broyhill, however, painted a different portrait of Bowden. That portrait described a man, who 15 years later, doesn’t have any remorse and hasn’t changed much from the time of the two fatal shootings.
Broyhill read off a list of infractions that Bowden has racked up in his years in prison, including as recently as this year. Those infractions include using profane language, fights, gang activity, assaulting prison staff and possession of an illegal substance.
And Bowden hasn’t done anything to further his education, Broyhill said.
While Broyhill talked, several members of Bowden’s family, including his 14-year-old daughter, were visibly upset. Bailiffs had to tell some of them several times to be quiet, and Hall had Bowden’s daughter to stand up and told her that it was important for her to be there for her father. He warned her that if she didn’t stop talking, making faces or otherwise being inappropriate, she would be removed from the courtroom. After the sentencing, she was out in the hallway, a family member embracing her as tears came down her face.
Anthony McNeil, Michael Jordan’s uncle and legal guardian, said he now looks after Michael Jordan’s son, who is now 15. McNeil said Michael Jordan’s son was born two months after his father’s burial.
“Every time we have a hearing (in Bowden’s case), we have to deal with his emotions,” McNeil said.
Effie McNeil, Michael Jordan’s aunt, said she struggles with Michael Jordan’s death.
“Ever since this happened, I don’t get to see him laugh,” she said. “I don’t get to see him do nothing.”
Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill and Broyhill said they were unable to contact Santiago-Arias’ family, who did not attended the hearing Wednesday.
O’Neill urged Hall to hand down a tough sentence.
“I implore you, your honor, to think about teenagers committing crimes of violence and what message we are sending to the community,” he said.
Hall said at the end of the day, his job is not to enact vengeance or act out of anger or sadness. He has to look at the facts and the law.
“I’m sad for everyone,” he said.