GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A man who testified against the convicted murder of Michael Bockheim in exchange for a lighter sentence went from being a free man on probation to spending the next 16 to 45 years in prison.
The judge said the reason the punishment, he violated probation by reading a magazine on the job.
Kent County Judge Mark Trusock said he gave Vernon Heath Jr. several chances to stay out of prison, but after being sent home from work multiple times, the judge had had enough.
The Bockheim family was also in the courtroom on Friday, November 22nd to hear the judge’s ruling.
Jane Bockheim, the mother of Michael, said it was a like a wave of relief when the judge upheld the sentence of 16 to 45 years in prison for Heath.
Her son was killed by Charles Brown Jr. Heath gave the shooter the gun then testified against him in exchange for only spending a year in jail.
After reading a magazine on the job at his job at the Grand Rapids Recycling and Education Center a judge said Heath threw away his own freedom.
Bockheim said she tries never to miss a single court appearance when it has to do with the death of her son.
“I don’t want to go through it,” she said. “I don’t want to sit there and relive everything again.”
28-year-old Micheal Bockheim was shot and killed in January 2012. Heath provided testimony that led to the conviction of Charles Brown Jr. In exchange, heath pleaded guilty to armed robbery, served one year in jail, then went to work at the recycling center.
“I wasn’t happy with it,” said Bockheim. “But they had to do it to get the testimony and get Brown convicted.”
With Heath on probation, Bockheim said she lived in fear, “(I was) Scared to go anywhere, do anything. You don’t know who is looking at you or what.”
The fear went away when Heath was sentenced to a minimum of 16 years in prison in Gratiot County. Court documents show Heath was sent home from work multiple times for reading magazines and talking on his phone while on the job. The judge said both were direct violations of his probation.
In April Heath appeared before a judge and pleaded guilty to a probation violation. On Friday, Heath’s attorney said his client didn’t know what he was doing by entering that plea and tried to get a new hearing on the probation.
The judge said he’d given Heath enough chances, even sending a probation officer to talk to Heath at his work to warn him to straighten up or risk going to prison.
Bockheim said the prison sentence is a form of karmic justice for the death of her son.
“I was praying for a good outcome and it was,” she said.
Bockheim said she looks forward to the day when she doesn’t have a court appearance scheduled on her calender. She’s been told that Brown is appealing his murder conviction and is looking at another possible court date in January.