CLEVELAND COUNTY, N.C. - Robert Bridges was on trial for shooting a woman to death and critically wounding her husband in front of their 12-year-old son at a school bus stop in January 2016.
On Friday, in a Cleveland County courtroom, the judge announced the guilty verdicts.
Bridges was found guilty of second-degree murder, attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and discharging a weapon into an occupied vehicle.
He was sentenced to at least 38 years in prison.
Defense attorney Calvin Coleman told jurors that Bridges loved his neighborhood near Kings Mountain until Jeff and Myla Oaks moved in and started a feud with him over control of the gravel road on Mann Court.
Coleman claimed the couple terrorized Bridges and his wife.
“If you can’t feel safe in your home, is there anywhere you can feel safe?” Coleman said in court.
The arguments came to a head in January of 2016.
The investigation showed that Jeff Oaks was taking his son to the bus stop and blocked the road with his car, keeping Bridges from going to work.
Jeff Oaks called his wife, Myla Oaks, who drove to the scene.
"These are dangerous people," Coleman said.
Coleman said Bridges didn't know their son was in the back seat of the car when he grabbed his gun because he was afraid for his life.
Bridges said Jeff Oaks always kept a gun on him.
"Self-defense would be no good if you have to wait for somebody to kill you," Coleman said.
Before the guilty verdict was read in court, the judge warned anyone who could not contain their emotions to leave.
There was quiet during the reading and an eruption of tears and penned up frustration when the judge allowed family to speak.
“I can see the evil in your eyes,” said Emmanuel Ellis, Myla Oaks’ father.
Ellis didn’t hold back as he addressed Bridges.
The 12-year-old son heard the gunshots that changed his life.
“Hope there is a day that me and you meet,” Ellis said.
“Just show some remorse, son. Just show some remorse,” said Debbie Brooke, Myla’s grandmother.
Coleman said after the shooting, Bridges went to a neighbor's house filled with grief.
"'I didn’t want to do that,’” Coleman said, reiterating what Bridges told jurors. “’I didn’t want to do that.' And he got on his knees."
The prosecutor said Bridges knew the 12-year-old was there when his parents were shot.
Prosecutor Sally Kirby-Turner said Bridges didn't care.
"To see these people bleeding and dying and to hear their child screaming and just walk away," Kirby-Turner said.
The prosecutor said Bridges hated his neighbors.
Kirby-Turner said when Bridges pulled the gun out, he started walking toward them, firing as he advanced.
"That sounds more like an attack than self-defense," she said.
The husband and wife were shot in the head.
Although Jeff Oaks survived, he needs constant care.
The prosecutor said Myla Oaks was shot and killed checking on her wounded husband.
"Somebody is on the ground, and they can’t defend themselves,” Kirby-Turner said. “That’s execution-style murder."
The prosecutor pointed at the Oaks family and told jurors that they don't want sympathy. They want justice.
The Oaks’ two sons lost their mother and their father lives in a nursing home.
“The emptiness, the hollowness that’s hurting them. You took a life from them,” said Diana Oaks, Jeff Oaks’ mother.
Bridges elected not to speak before deputies arrested him and took him away
“God, have mercy on your soul,” Brooke said.
The teen testified Wednesday in a Cleveland County courtroom about when his mother was shot and killed and his father was critically wounded.
"I started praying and I grabbed her phone," the teen said.
The teen was 12 years old at the time.
The teen told jurors Wednesday that his father, Jeff Oaks, was taking him to the bus stop when Bridges sideswiped them on Mann Court near Kings Mountain.
Oaks called his wife, Myla Oaks, to come to the scene and an argument between the feuding neighbors erupted.
Their son was hiding in the back seat of the car when the first shot hit the window next to him.
"What were you doing on the floorboard?" the prosecutor asked the teen.
"Praying," he replied.
He said he wanted to believe his parents ran away but when the gunfire stopped, they were both lying next to the car, shot in the head.
He kneeled next to his mother.
"I started praying, and I grabbed her phone," the son said.
He tried calling 911 but couldn't get through.
He ran for help and the school bus arrived.
A video from the school bus was presented in court.
The school bus driver helped the boy.
"He pulled a gun and started shooting," the boy said on the bus that morning.
Jeff Oaks will never fully recover from his injuries and needs constant care.
The defense attorney said Bridges wasn't the aggressor and that he only fired the gun when Jeff Oaks pulled his gun.
The son said his father's gun was still in the car when the shooting started.
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