BANGOR, Maine — Allen and Mary Ann Suddy, the grandparents of John “Bobby” Surles who adopted him when he was 10, stood holding hands Friday evening as the teenager who shot and killed their son last year was found guilty of murder.
The defendant, 19-year-old Zachary Carr, immediately started to cry when the jury of 12, which took about four hours to consider all of the evidence, rendered its verdict just before 5 p.m. Friday. He placed his face in his hands in an attempt to smother his sobs.
“Two lives are gone,” Allen Suddy said directly after the verdict was read. “Two lives are gone over stupid s—-.”
Carr’s muffled crying echoed through the quiet courtroom at the Penobscot Judicial Center while Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy thanked the jurors for their service. She then called for a short break to allow the jury to leave, then set an April 21 sentencing date.
Carr shot Surles around 6 p.m. Jan. 27, 2010, on Cumberland Street during a street fight involving two groups of young men — friends of Surles and friends of Carr. He died at 11:08 p.m. the next day.
Carr was convicted Friday of intentional or knowing murder. Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson said he was pleased that the jurors opted for a murder verdict over the less serious charge of adequate provocation manslaughter.
“The case from the beginning was an intentional and knowing murder, and I’m glad the jury saw it that way,” he said.
Defense attorneys F. David Walker and Thomas Matzilevich both said they were very disappointed with the jury’s decision.
“We’re hoping to have this verdict overturned,” Walker said, standing on the courthouse steps. “That is our goal.”
Matzilevich said several motions are in the works, but right now “we want to focus on Zack.”
Holly Carr, Zachary Carr’s mother, who sat directly behind him during most of the trial, also was visibly shaken and started to cry when she heard the verdict, which will send her son to prison for at least 25 years, possibly life.
Emotion was visible on most of the 40 or so faces in the courtroom, which was filled with people who spent the past week watching the murder trial unfold. Some were relieved, others heartbroken.
“This is not over,” Chantel Nielson-Ashby, a friend of Carr, said after the verdict was read. “No matter what we do, we don’t get justice.”
During the short break after the verdict was read, the Suddys got hugs from the two dozen people who were there to offer support.
“Justice has been served,” Michael “Mikey” Morin-Smith, a friend of Surles’ who was with him the day he was shot, said just before giving Allen Suddy an extended hug and breaking into tears.
Suddy did not just hug him. He gave Morin-Smith and many of the other young men he hugged a piece of advice.
“It could have been any one of you guys,” he said over and over to each of the teens who hugged him. “On either side. All it takes is a split second. Don’t react, think.”
Carr testified Thursday that he brought the Glock 9 mm gun that his father had given him two hours beforehand to the street fight but insisted it went off accidentally while he was defending himself from Surles.
“It was an accident,” he said on the stand, adding later, “I didn’t intend to shoot him. I was trying to defend myself, but I didn’t have the intention of shooting him.”
He said the gun was tucked into the waistband of his pants, which began to fall down when he jumped back during the fighting. He said he grabbed it to secure it and it accidentally went off when Surles hit him with a mop handle.
“This case is about bringing a handgun to a mop stick fight,” Benson said during his closing arguments Friday morning.
Surles was shot outside of 60 Cumberland St., directly across the street from where Carr and several friends lived, and died at Eastern Maine Medical Center 28 hours later.
Surles went to Bangor High School and dropped out as a junior, Mary Ann Suddy told the Bangor Daily News last year. He had spent a couple of months before his death “couch surfing” from one friend’s place to another’s but was living at home just before his death, trying to get his high school general equivalence diploma and turning his life around, she said.
Surles’ MySpace page says he smoked pot and loved to ride a skateboard. One picture shows him jumping the steps of a downtown business on his board, while another depicts him with a swastika drawn onto his palm with a marker.
Mary Ann Suddy said a year ago that “there are things on there that I didn’t agree with,” adding that Surles did some things just for attention.
She objected strongly on Thursday to the jury in Carr’s trial getting a copy of the swastika picture, especially since others showing Carr dressed like a gang member were not allowed.
“They made my son look like a thug, and him look like an angel,” she said Friday morning of Carr.
Suddy, who sat in the front row of the courtroom throughout the trial, said she hadn’t been sure what verdict the jury would deliver.
“I feel justice has been served,” she said in front of the courthouse Friday evening, adding, “I hope everybody has learned something from this.”
Carr faces a penalty of 25 years to life in prison. Benson said he probably will ask the court to sentence him to 30 to 35 years behind bars.