Sides argue high bond in case of 5-year-old killed

Jul. 23, 2013 @ 06:49 PM

Bond for Vincent Eugene Gregory remains high following a hearing on multiple charges in the Jan. 27 death of 5-year-old Jayden Chad Stokes.

Judge Reuben F. Young topped prosecutor recommendations for $500,000, setting bond at $750,000 Tuesday in Vance County Superior Court.

Gregory, of 270 Sparrow Lane, Henderson, is charged with second-degree murder, felony death by vehicle, felony serious injury by vehicle, driving while impaired and driving while license revoked.

Bill Griffin, the assistant district attorney prosecuting for the state, said psychological tests are complete and Gregory has been found competent to stand trial.

“We are not going to minimize what happened,” said Nick Bagshawe, Gregory’s defense attorney. “I think that $100,000 would be ample to secure his attendance here in this court.”

Griffin presented a list of prior cases against Gregory. He told the court Gregory has 24 convictions on driving while license revoked or driving without a license. In addition, Griffin said Gregory had previously on multiple occasions failed to appear in court and pay fines. He also said Gregory has a previous charge of driving while impaired.

“Needless to say, your honor, this is not a typical case,” Griffin said.

Griffin said a blood-alcohol test at Maria Parham Medical Center showed a toxicity level of 0.14. In North Carolina, a driver is deemed impaired with a level of 0.08.

More evidence in the case is with the State Bureau of Investigation lab analysts.

“We also asked for a rush order on those results,” Griffin said. “There is a backlog problem at the SBI labs.”

An officer responding to the scene in January withdrew a container of medication from Gregory’s shirt pocket that day, and the drug information indicated a side effect of drowsiness, according to Griffin.

According to police reports, Gregory, 48, drove a 1988 GMC Jimmy belonging to Coretta Mae Whimbush at a high speed into a left turn in the 600 block of East Montgomery Street and struck a telephone pole, then Stokes and his father, Richard Thomas Stokes, before hitting a tree.

Griffin said the child was bleeding profusely from head injuries at the scene when police arrived, and Richard Stokes also sustained permanent injuries. The two were walking to a park when the Sunday afternoon incident happened.

Young confirmed the recommendations of Griffin and Bagshawe, and he reviewed Bagshawe’s complaint about an additional $250,000 added to the $1 million and the $1,000 bonds previously set.

Young consolidated all bonds to $750,000.

Stokes family members conferred with Griffin outside the courtroom, where he advised them that the next hearing for the case is scheduled for Aug. 20.

“It is a very high bond,” Griffin said. “I think the judge was very concerned, even more concerned,” he added, about the danger Gregory poses in light of a past disregard for traffic and driving problems.

“It deserves to be high like it is,” said Randy Vaughan, Jayden’s uncle.

“I was surprised that it got a reduction, but I am glad that it wasn’t lowered more than it was,” said Cathy Vaughan-Stokes, Jayden’s grandmother.

Gregory family members did not wish to comment on the case but indicated Rev. John Miles, a Greensboro pastor who also attended the hearing, would speak on their behalf.

Miles said Gregory was sorry for what he did. Miles also said the bond was “a ransom” and questioned the charges. He said a “fair bond” would continue to be requested.

Cayla Burnette-Stag, a cousin of Jayden Stokes with a son of the same age, Haiden, said the loss leaves a hole in the family that can’t be described.

“Haiden and Jayden, they were very close,” Burnette-Stag said. “I think that DWIs and DUIs happen so often. I hope that this will resonate with people, in their minds, that this is the worst that can happen, and it did happen.”

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.