Walker County, Ga., man sentenced to life in 2015 slaying

Walker County, Ga., man sentenced to life in 2015 slaying

July 2nd, 2016 by Tyler Jett in Local Regional News

Investigators work the scene of a shooting that took place Oct. 19, 2015, on Straight Gut Road in Rock Spring, Ga.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

LAFAYETTE, Ga. — Michael James Gobert will go to prison for the rest of his life, without the chance to leave early on parole.

Gobert, whom a jury convicted May 27 for the murder of Johnny "JJ" Montgomery, was sentenced Friday morning by Judge Ralph Van Pelt Jr. in Walker County Superior Court in front of his wife and stepdaughter, as well as Montgomery's family. While he could have sentenced Gobert to life with the possibility of parole after 30 years, Van Pelt chose not to.

Michael James Gobert

Michael James Gobert

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

In addition to felony murder, the jury also convicted Gobert of three counts of aggravated assault and four counts of possession of a firearm in the commission of a crime.

In the middle of the night last October, Gobert awoke to the sounds of his stepdaughter yelling in her mobile home on Gobert's Rock Springs property.

Gobert, 52, rushed outside with a gun and saw three men next to his stepdaughter's trailer. One of the men was arguing with her. Montgomery, who was not in conflict with the stepdaughter, hopped in his car and urged the other two men to get in, too. They then began to drive, but to get off the property, they had to pass Gobert.

He opened fire at the car, hitting Montgomery, 31, on the right side of the head once, killing him. Gobert's attorney, public defender David Dunn, argued during the trial that his client was acting in self-defense. He heard a man yelling at his stepdaughter. Then, he saw these men driving toward him in the dark.

On Friday, Montgomery's parents addressed Gobert, trying to explain how their son's death has affected them.

"Sometimes," said the victim's father, also named Johnny Montgomery, "I can't sleep at night. When I see (my son's) kids, I think about how they're going to be affected because they don't have their dad to teach them things, to show them how a man is supposed to represent God."

LaBron Warthan, right, comforts Anna Ruth Montgomery as she talks about her son, Johnny "J.J." Montgomery, in her home on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, in Ringgold, Ga. Johnny Montgomery was killed in a shooting at 1249 Straight Gut Road in Rock Spring, Ga. Michael James Gobert was convicted in the slaying.

LaBron Warthan, right, comforts Anna Ruth Montgomery as...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Johnny Montgomery added that he did not believe Gobert acted in self-defense. With his gun, Montgomery said, Gobert could have scared the men off his property. He also said he did not believe Gobert was remorseful, based on Gobert's body language during the trial.

The victim's mother, Anna Ruth Montgomery, said Gobert never told her family he was sorry for her son's death. She said the killing has affected her grandchildren.

"[Johnny 'JJ' Montgomery's] son hasn't been to the movies since his daddy got killed," she said. "His daughter comes to the house and just holds his picture and kisses it."

Gobert did not speak during Friday's hearing. But three family members submitted letters to Van Pelt, explaining why Gobert deserved some semblance of mercy from the court.

Dunn pointed out that Gobert had no criminal history before this case. He also said Gobert served in the U.S. Army, the Marine Corps and the National Guard. Also, even if he was in the wrong, even if he was convicted of murder for his actions, Dunn said his client was acting in that moment out of protection for his family.

"Mr. Gobert is remorseful," Dunn told the judge.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or at tjett@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.