NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) – Thomas Grooms began the final day of his trial on March 28 by reading the Bible sitting at the defense table.
At 9:36 a.m., the jury began deliberating his fate. At 10:39 a.m., the jury's verdict was read out loud to the courtroom.
Grooms was found guilty of two counts of second-degree murder, guilty of two counts of felony death by motor vehicle, guilty of reckless driving and guilty of possession of an open container of alcohol.
He sat motionless while the verdict was read.
AGGRAVATING FACTOR DISCUSSED
The jury was then asked to deliberate on one more step in the trial—an aggravating factor. The prosecution asked the jury to decide if Grooms knowingly created a greater risk of death to more than one person by means of a weapon or device. Assistant DA Doug Carriker asked the jury to remember that other bikers were on River Road at the time, including Michele Eggleston and Maureen Curis, who testified on the first day of the trial.
After about 40 minutes of talking, the jury sent a note to the judge saying that they were unable to come to a unanimous decision.
GROOMS READS LETTER TO JUDGE
The judge then allowed Grooms to read a letter he wrote to the judge.
"I'd trade my life in a second if I could change it," Grooms said. His voice was low and shaky. "What I did that night was not me. It's not what I do. It's not the way I live my life."
He began crying early on his letter.
"I'll punish myself the rest of my life…I'll share my story, my mistakes, with as many people as I can for the rest of my life," he said.
The room erupted into sniffling and crying as he read more of his letter.
"I pray that one day the Doolittle family will find it in their heart to forgive me." When he sat down, a box of tissues was given to the 64-year-old defendant.
JUDGE HEARS FROM CATHERINE EDMONDS
The judge then heard from Catherine Edmonds, who said, "What do I miss? It's the laughter mostly…Now we're back to quiet."
JOY DOOLITTLE DISCUSSES HER 'CLOUD OF SADNESS'
The floor was finally given to Joy Doolittle, the mother of Trey Doolittle and wife of David Doolittle, who was the first person to testify a week prior.
She told the judge about how she's been sick since losing part of her family on April 3, 2011. She explained that she gets fever blisters frequently and was prescribed anti-anxiety medication because of the stress.
Joy Doolittle said that she is probably more spiritual now because of the situation, but that the holidays are the worst thing to handle without them.
While trying to hold back tears, she quietly said, "There seems to be a cloud of sadness."
She ended the trial by telling the judge about the final picture that she took with her son while he was alive. She remembered that Trey, a 17-year-old boy who just wanted to ride his bike, had thrown his arm around her neck and was smiling.
"I can imagine feeling it there now," she whispered.
GROOMS IS SENTENCED
The judge finally made the decision she had been waiting almost a year to here.
"Vengeance only belongs to one person and that's the Lord," Judge Paul L. Jones said.
Grooms was sentenced to 24-30 years in the N.C. Department of Corrections for the deaths of Trey and David Doolittle.