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Family struggles with son's death

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The Godoys can't think of it as a mistake.

It's too horrible, too awful, to have been an accident, when their 16-year-old son was shot in the head.

The Clayton County Police said it was unintentional, and Makonnen Sheran, a friend of Anthony Godoy's, wasn't charged with murder, but with involuntary manslaughter.

But Anthony's father and mother, Oscar and Bettie Godoy, can't accept that.

"He shot my son," said Oscar Godoy. "He executed my son -- he shot him in the head. If it's an accident, you're not going to point it into the head and shoot ...

"'Oh it was an accident,' that makes it like he had nothing to do with it. He shot my son."

More than a year after Anthony's death, as Sheran's trial has been delayed and the court is scheduled to look at a motion to dismiss the whole case, the Godoys are concerned the district attorney's office is going to just drop the case.

"I don't know what's going on over there [in the DA's office]," said Bettie Godoy. "This boy, the person who was charged, he's walking free. I really feel that justice needs to be served, because too many are getting killed in Clayton County."

The assistant district attorney assigned to the case, Dawn Belisle-Skinner, could not be reached for comment. The assistant district attorney Oscar Godoy remembers speaking to, Anece Baxter-White, did not return repeated calls from the Clayton News Daily.

According to court records, the district attorney's office initially increased the charges against Sheran, presenting the case to a grand jury and getting the 18-year-old charged with malice murder. The office argued that he not only murdered his friend, but did it intentionally.

The investigation by the Clayton County Police Department, however, only resulted in charges of involuntary manslaughter. According to the arrest warrant on file with the court, Anthony Godoy was shot in the head with his own .45-caliber gun, which he'd been recklessly waving around.

He was allegedly playing with it, sitting in the 1993 Nissan Altima parked in front of his Riverdale house, in June 2007. He and his brother and two friends had just come back from Southlake Mall. His older brother had gone inside, and he was messing around with the gun, pointing it at his friends.

Sheran, according to the detective's account of events, tried to take the gun away, and it went off, killing Godoy.

After the autopsy results seemed to support the statements from Sheran and the one witness, police charged Sheran with the accidental death.

"We believe it was accidental," said Deputy Chief Tim Robinson, at the time. "The detectives were looking at everything," he said. "Was this a set-up? Had they had an argument? They said, 'No man, we were friends. We were all friends.'"

The witness, who said he was smoking marijuana at the time of the shooting, has changed his descriptions of the details several times, though, and the charges escalated in the district attorney's office.

A motion was filed by Sheran's attorney at the beginning of the October to dismiss the indictment with the murder charges. The trial was originally set to start on Monday, with the seating of a jury, but the case has been moved and the judge is going to hear arguments on the pending motion in December.

The whole situation has left the Godoy family feeling helpless. Anthony's older brother said, "It don't make no sense. Jaywalk, they take you to jail. Suspended license, they take you to jail. But you take a life, and they give you bond? As far as the truth goes, in Clayton County, it's like, 'next case! Let's move on.'"

Oscar Godoy said he doesn't have a lot of faith left in the justice system, but he's really angry at Sheran and the other teen who was with his son when the gun went off.

"I don't like these two kids. I don't, that's the real truth. [Sheran] was very conscious of what he was doing, and if was an accident, why did he try to act like he did, changing his story?

"He said to my older son, 'I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.' You're not sorry. You're laughing like you got away with it ... nobody cares they killed Anthony, and it's like, 'OK,' they took care of dog," Oscar Godoy said.

On some level, Oscar Godoy realizes this isn't entirely rational. He realizes his son was also "doing things" and "having trouble." He realizes his son hung out with Sheran, and apparently liked the 18-year-old. He realizes that what he really wants isn't justice, but just some sort of peace.

"It's like your heart breaks in two," he said, trying to explain. "And it's never going to heal."