Peter Krenn sat through a day in March that reminded him that he is alone on earth.
He heard three convicted killers claiming, 15 years after the murder of his son, that the man accused of pulling the trigger did not do it.
They claimed that the shooter’s brother killed Erik Krenn, 16, in an attempt to steal his car.
Krenn said afterward that the stories were clearly lies.
The prosecutor railed that the claims were lies in an attempt to hustle the judicial system.
And now, the judge who heard the claims, Circuit Court Judge John C. Hayes III, has ruled that these convicted criminals lied under oath in an attempt to subvert the courts.
Hayes, a judge for more than 20 years, this week denied the motion of Antonio Gordon for a new trial on claims that Gordon’s brother actually shot Erik Krenn.
Not only did Hayes deny the motion, but he also wrote in his order that the entire story concocted by Gordon, his brother and a third defendant was “completely fabricated.”
Hayes did what judges must do when people with guns kill innocent teens – He sent all straight back to prison.
“I’m happy this part seems over, but nothing is going to bring Erik back,” Peter Krenn said after the ruling. “He is dead, and he was shot for no reason with a gun that does just one thing – kill. My son can’t come back.”
The case seemed simple.
In July 1998, Erik Krenn and his Rock Hill High School buddy, Christopher Diaz, were out for a ride in the restored BMW that Peter Krenn had given Erik after Erik’s mother died of cancer.
The friends stopped in a driveway to turn around.
A beat-up old Chevy pulled up. Inside were four young men who hadn’t darkened the doorway of a school since about fifth grade.
Antonio Gordon, then 16, his older brother Monta Gordon, 17, and two others blocked the Krenn’s car.
The criminals, all admittedly high – three of them in trouble since they were old enough to steal or maim or punch – decided that they deserved the BMW more than Erik Krenn did.
Erik Krenn was shot once. He drove away for help and died before reaching the hospital. Diaz was in the passenger seat, frozen in terror.
All four young punks admitted after the cops caught them soon afterward that Antonio Gordon shot Erik Krenn. In their guilty pleas in 1999, all said Antonio Gordon was the shooter.
For years after that, three of them tried filing lawsuits and appeals, claiming that they were the victims of society and courts and judges and mean prosecutors. Every court told them that their claims were nonsense.
Peter Krenn went to every hearing all alone.
But none of them, in 15 years of claiming to be victims, ever said Antonio Gordon was not the shooter.
But then, the older brother claimed, for the first time, that he actually was the shooter. Antonio Gordon filed court documents saying this should get him a new chance at freedom.
In March, prosecutor Willy Thompson, who put the four in prison 15 years ago, had to listen to the Gordon brothers and a stammering convict named Terrance McCreary.
Thompson had to spend weeks getting ready – taking time that could be used to try other cases of mayhem and murder and gun violence – to hear claims that nobody believed.
“They made it all up,” Thompson said this week. “They just plain lied about it.”
Hayes, the judge who accepted those guilty pleas back in 1999, described in his order that the fabrications, the lies, the outright perjury on the witness stand, were the latest in “seemingly endless attempts by Antonio Gordon to overturn his guilty plea.”
Hayes called it “inconceivable” that after so many years, the defendants who killed Erik Krenn in a “horrible crime” would claim somebody else pulled the trigger.
“What is now on the table,” Hayes wrote, “is two accomplices fabricating testimony in an effort to allow Antonio Gordon to attempt to flip 180 degrees from his own version of the events of the night of the shooting in hopes that he can be tried not as the shooter, but solely as an accomplice or as an innocent bystander.”
Antonio Gordon’s lawyer could not be reached for comment, but he can appeal Hayes’s ruling.
Antonio Gordon can ask still another court to hear the stories that – even a judge states without reservations – are a crock.
Now in his early 30s, with a family of his own, Diaz, that friend in the passenger seat that awful night, said he is “appalled” that these criminals who shot his friend continue to lie and hurt the father of his dead friend.
“Mr. Krenn doesn’t deserve this, just like Erik didn’t deserve it,” Diaz said by phone from his Florida home.
Despite the pain, Peter Krenn will be at any court hearing, if there is another one.
His only son was taken by a bullet. His only child was slaughtered by a gang of hoodlums who smoked dope all day, then grabbed a gun and bullets from family and other criminals and used both to kill.
Krenn recently went on a motorcycle trip around South Carolina and North Carolina.
It was similar to the last trip he took with his son before Erik Krenn was killed.
This time, he took pictures of interesting places off the beaten track.
In one of the photos, you can see Peter Krenn.
He is alone.