Gaston sentenced for fatal stabbing

By Observer Upload April 05, 2013 12:05 pm

by Katy Nesbitt/The Observer

ENTERPRISE — An Enterprise man was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in prison for manslaughter.

Michael Trent Gaston, 50, of Enterprise, stabbed Lawrence Mock of Wallowa during a late-night altercation in May 2012.

“I lie in my bunk and wish I could have went back to change that night,” Gaston told the court. “I am sorry to this court and this town.”

A few days before the stabbing, Gaston, recently estranged from his wife, discovered she was having an affair with Mock. Text messages among the three during that day culminated in Mock coming to Lear’s Main Street Pub and Grill in Enterprise where Gaston was working and temporarily living.

Gaston was originally charged with murder, but accepted a plea of manslaughter with a minimum sentence of 10 years. He will earn credit for the 11 months he’s served in Union County jail awaiting judgment, but will not be allowed an early release for good behavior or parole. Upon release he will be subject to three years of post-prison supervision.

The murder charge was reduced to first-degree manslaughter because Gaston was subject to “extreme emotional disturbance.”

Though extreme emotional disturbance does not constitute a defense, it does allow for a reduction in charges, said Assistant Attorney General Scott Jackson.

“The case was thoroughly investigated by Enterprise Police Department, Wallowa County Sheriff’s Office and Oregon State Police. Though there were two people involved, one can’t testify, but we were able to obtain a significant volume of texts — all which were consistent with what Gaston reported as well as the physical evidence and medical examiner’s report,” Jackson said.

Defense Attorney Janie Burcartt said she hired a retired state police detective to look over the investigation and a psychiatrist to evaluate Gaston. All the information she gathered corroborated with Gaston’s account.

“This is one of the clearest cases of extreme emotional disturbance I’ve seen,” said Burcartt.

Mock’s father, John Mock, gave an emotional plea to Judge Russell West to extend the sentence, which, he said, was disproportionate to the violent manner in which his son was killed.

“The pain and suffering Lawrence received constitutes a trial but not this plea,” Mock said. “I respectfully request that you not accept his plea.”

West, however, said the law was clear in this case.

“I completely understand Lawrence got a death sentence and I don’t blame Mr. Mock, but the law provides 10 years without parole,” the judge said.

Wallowa County District Attorney Mona Williams said Gaston’s wife, Kristen Gaston, checked herself into a shelter that evening, as the text conversations escalated. 

Burcartt said threats were made during the text conversations the day of the killing and Gaston’s child saw them. Burcartt said she believed that was why Kristen Gaston sought shelter.

Mock initiated a phone call to Gaston later that night which a witness overheard. Williams said the witness heard Mock ask Gaston, “If I come over to Lear’s, will you kick my ass?” The witness is reported to have heard Gaston say, “No.”

Mock arrived at Lear’s around 11:30 p.m., said Williams. After a 15-minute conversation, the two men discussed which of them would be continuing a relationship with Kristen Gaston. 

Mock then pulled out a camera and showed Gaston a lewd picture of his wife, said Williams. Gaston then reached over the bar, grabbed a knife and stabbed Mock at least seven times.

Burcartt said when Mock showed Gaston the picture of his wife he was “pushed to the brink.”

West told Gaston he has 30 days to appeal the sentence to Oregon State Court of Appeals.