VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A teen who pleaded guilty to his role in a deadly shooting spree in Virginia Beach will serve 50 years in prison.
Nicholas Cates took a plea deal back in July in connection to two murders that took place in early December last year. He was sentenced on Wednesday to 100 years with 50 years served.
Cates was only 17 at the time when he took part in the killings of two random victims. Prosecutors say on December 2nd, Cates and Angelo Worlds drove around looking for somebody to shoot.
They were on Hawk Avenue and found Zacarias Ayala sitting in his car. He was shot several times and killed with Cates’ gun. Prosecutors say Worlds was the man who pulled the trigger. Worlds case has not yet gone to trial.
Two days, later prosecutors say Cates was driving around with Maurice Boney. They were ‘looking to take a life’. That’s when they came across Christine Bender who was smoking on her porch. Cates said ‘she is the one’.
They asked Bender of a light and when she turned her back Cates shot and killed her using Boney’s gun.
“Instead of dying of old age she was hunted down like an animal and left in the street to die,” said Bender’s daughter Elizabeth Stevens.
Stevens was upstairs asleep at the time of the shooting. She says her mother did the same thing every night. She would go out and smoke, look up at the stars and say her prayers.
“I put my hand on her and told her I need you to be a strong mommy,” Stevens told the court. “I saw the light die in her eyes. It still doesn’t take seem real.”
Friends, doctors and church members took the stand in Cates’ defense saying they were all stunned at what he did. They described him as a good student who got into the wrong crowd at Renaissance Academy. He was there after he got caught smoking marijuana at school.
Bob Morecock, Cates’ attorney told the judge his client killed Bender because he was living in fear of Worlds. Prosecutors were quick to point out that Worlds was not there the night Bender, the mother of three was shot.
“I’m so sorry,” Cates’ mom Michelle Cates told the court. “I didn’t know your mom. I’m so sorry. I think about you every day. I think about how much you hurt.”
Morecok says a combination of Xanax, marijuana and alcohol led to Bender’s death.
“Xanax didn’t pull the trigger,” said prosecutors Paul Powers.
“I’m guilty of taking the life of Mrs. Bender,” Cates said as he read a statement. “I did the worst thing imaginable. The combination of Xanax, marijuana, and alcohol made it hard to remember that night. I pray for all those families and will always do so. I look in the mirror and can’t believe I did this terrible thing. I’m so sorry. I will live my life in a way to honor Christine Bender’s memory.”
Morecock urged the Judge James Lewis to have mercy with his sentence.
“He is capable of redemption if your sentence would allow it,” Morecock added.
Lewis called this sentencing the most difficult he has ever had on the bench.
“This was an utter act of senseless violence,” Lewis said. “Cold-blooded murder.”
He told the family “I’m not sure it is possible I can do justice for you .”
Lewis sentenced Castes to 100 years, but suspended 50 years. Cates will get out when he is 68-years-old.
Boney has pleaded guilty for his part in the crime.