Two teens plead guilty to murder in Fred Gaston case

Two teens pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Thursday in connection with the Aug. 2 murder of Jackson County Sheriff's Deputy Frederick Gaston III outside a motel in Gastonia, N.C., family and court officials confirmed Friday.

Gaston, 49, and also a former interim police chief in Moss Point, was driving to Washington, D.C. for Air Force Reserve training when he stopped to stay the night at the Microtel Inn in Gastonia, N.C.

He was walking from his truck to his motel room when his killers, Rekeam Jamall Fleming, 16, of Gastonia, and Tommy Dean Barnette Jr., 18, of Bessemer City, N.C., approached to rob Gaston.

Gaston told the two men he was a law enforcement officer, but they shot him anyway, and Gaston died of his injury.

Fleming and Barnette initially were charged murder in the first-degree and attempted robbery. They pleaded guilty Thursday to a reduced charge of second-degree murder.

Court officials said Fleming will spend 16 to 20 years in prison day-for-day on the murder charge, while Barnette, already a convicted felon, will spend anywhere from 27 to 34 years in prison on both charges. Fleming was not yet sentenced on the robbery charge.

Gaston's father, Frederick Gaston Sr., said this morning that the family was pleased to see the courts move so fast on the case, though they'd like to have seen the killers sentenced to life without parole.The Sun Herald updates this story in Saturday's edition.