At a plea and sentencing hearing held Wednesday, April 3, in the Wallowa County Courthouse, a murder charge against Michael Trent Gaston was reduced to a charge of first degree manslaughter.
Gaston, who agreed to negotiated terms involving the May 10, 2012, stabbing death of 26-year-old Lawrence Allen Mock that were accepted by Circuit Court Judge Russ West, pled guilty to the lesser manslaughter charge and was sentenced to the minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years of incarceration without parole.
The reduction from a murder to a manslaughter charge was granted because Judge West concurred with Oregon Assistant Attorney General Scott Jackson sitting at the front table that the violent act met the statutory definition of one that was committed during extreme emotional distress.
According to Oregon state law, Gaston will receive credit for time already served.
Given a chance to speak, Gaston verbally apologized to Lawrence Mocks parents, who were in attendance; to his own wife and two children; to the court; and to this town.
Judge West then admonished Gaston in front of a half-empty courtroom, saying, Saying you are sorry does not bring him back.
Mocks father, John Mock, given the opportunity to speak without being sworn in, said the negotiated agreement was disproportionally lenient. He said his son Lawrence and their family received life sentences, while Gaston only was being given a 10-year sentence.
Wallowa County District Attorney Mona Williams outlined the events that preceded Mocks death.
She said about May 1, 2012, Gastons wife Kirsten surprised Trent Gaston by asking for a divorce. Gaston, a cook at Lears Pub and Grill where the knifing later took place, then moved into apartments there. Shortly thereafter, said Williams, Gaston returned to his wifes residence and found her and Mock in her bedroom.
And, according to the district attorney, it was a dispute over who would continue having a relationship with Kirsten Gaston that triggered the violent confrontation.
Jackson interjected that text messages sent out the evening of May 9 between Kirsten Gaston, Mock, and Trent Gaston were voluminous, well documented and studied, and consistently upheld the extreme emotional distress argument.
Williams said Trent Gaston phoned Mock at the home of an unnamed friend of Mock's at about 11:30 p.m. May 9, and that Mock agreed to meet him after hours at Lears.
According to the district attorney, the two men talked for about 15 minutes behind locked doors, turned their discussion toward Kirsten Gaston, Mock showed an inflammatory photo of Kirsten Gaston, and Trent Gaston responded by stabbing Mock seven times.
Although defense attorney Janie Burcart added some details, both she and Gaston told Judge West they concurred with Williamss portrayal of the events.