GASTONIA, N.C. — Nathanael High, the Gaston County man who at age 15 was convicted of killing his father in February 2002, will soon be released from prison. His father was Gaston College Campus Police Chief Randy High.
Nathanael High had been serving a life sentence until a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling invalidated life sentences for minors who are convicted of murder.
On Wednesday afternoon, Nathanael High entered into a plea deal, which reduced his charge to second-degree-murder, and, with credit for the time he's already spent in prison, could allow him to be free in roughly 21 months.
"It's very important for me that my family knows how sorry I am for this," Nathanael High said. "Being punished is part of the process, and I'm doing my part."
Nathanael High claimed his father was abusive, and though he admitted to killing him, High, his attorneys, and some of his family members felt a life sentence was too long.
"I created this wound," Nathanael High said. "I can deal with the wound that I created, but it's harder for them because even 20 years later, there are family members that are never going to understand."
Nathanael High's mother, his half-sister, Melissa Slamcik, and other family members came to court to support his sentence reduction.
"I'm sorry for that part of the family who's still angry with him," Slamcik said. "We need my brother back. My children need their uncle."
Members of Randy High's family, including an ex-wife and one of his other sons, are angry about the new sentence though they acknowledged prosecutors had limited options.
"We just want to make sure that the court’s aware of just what a tremendous loss this has been for them," Assistant District Attorney Debbie Gulledge said.
"That's something that they continue to feel on a daily basis."
While District Attorney Travis Page agreed to the plea deal, he said if the case went to trial, they would dispute many of Nathanael High's claims.
Gaston County Police Chief Joseph Ramey also questioned Nathanael High's story.
In 1994, Randy High was a sergeant in charge of recruitment with the Gaston County Police, and he hired Chief Ramey as a young officer.
"We're taking a risk in letting someone who’s committed homicide, first-degree homicide, in allowing them a shorter sentence," Chief Ramey said. "I think that's too risky."