Man serving life sentence for murder of 2 Oneonta teens released - WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

Man serving life sentence for murder of 2 Oneonta teens released; Families outraged

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More than 20-years after receiving a life sentence for his involvement in the beating deaths of 2 Oneonta teens, Nathan Gast walked out of prison a free man.

In February 1992, the bodies of 14-year-old Kevin Duncan and 15-year-old Allen Eakes were found along Shades Creek off Highway 150 in Bessemer. According to court records, 15-year-old Nathan Gast, 16-year-old Christopher Thrasher and 17-year-old Carvin Stargell beat Duncan and Eakes with a bat and left them for dead.  A 14-year-old female victim was injured, but survived. 

After the incident, Gast was the one to notify police and help lead them to the 3rd victim, who was found in the Eastern Valley area. According to his attorney, Tommy Spina, prosecutors did not originally plan to charge Gast.

Thrasher and Stargell were convicted of both murders and sentenced to life without parole. Gast ending up pleading guilty to one count of murder and one count of attempted murder and was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole.  Gast has appeared before a parole board on several occasions, but has been denied each time.

On July 2nd, Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge David Carpenter granted a motion re-sentencing Gast to 20-years, with credit for time served and orded his release. Gast’s attorney, Tommy Spina, filed the motion based on the 2012 Supreme Court ruling on Miller v. Alabama, which declared life sentences for juveniles were unconstitutional.

In his motion, Spina justified Gast’s release: “At Mr. Gast’s sentencing, it was always contemplated that Mr. Gast, based on his cooperation with law enforcement and the saving of a victim’s life, as a result of cooperation, would be paroled after fifteen years of imprisonment. Since that time, parole has been denied and the likelihood of parole being granted in the future is remote.”

District Attorney Arthur Green did not oppose the motion and agreed that Gast should have been released.  “This is the only defendant to cooperate at the time of the investigation. (When he was sentenced) Everyone thought he would be out in 15-20 years,” Green explained on Tuesday. “(Gast) Helped save the life of the 14 year old girl. Without him, she would have died.”

The defense and prosecution feel Judge Carpenter’s decision was the right call. But the families of Kevin Duncan and Allen Eakes disagree.

Tuesday, Duncan’s sister Amanda Hill expressed her displeasure about Gast’s release.  “Them releasing Nathan is just a slap in the face to us I mean and the Eakes family too."

The families of Duncan and Eakes were notified about Gast’s release through Facebook. Duncan’s mother, Betty Klinger, says she thinks they should have been notified.

"We would have liked to have been at that hearing when they released him. I feel like in my heart we should have been there. We should have been notified," Klinger said.

In a statement from Allen Eakes’ sister, Renea Mitchell, she shared the same outrage over Gast’s release:

I am just appalled that a Judge would allow Nathan Gast to walk free. I was in shock that such a thing could occur without any fore warning to our families. To learn such horrific news via the internet...It has only opened up old wounds and having to relive those same nightmares. Nathan Gast may have been young, but so was my brother. Nathan Gast is the one who drug my brothers body and put him in the water. He knew exactly what he was doing, I don't care if he was 14, 15 or 50...he committed murder!!! He made that choice. What choice did my brother have? Nathan Gast is still alive and walking around, something my brother has been denied....thanks to Nathan Gast. He belongs in prison where he can sit and think about that choice he made in Feb of 1992. I think about that day every day.

The Duncan and Eakes families say they’ve been contact by the state Attorney General’s Office. Officers there say they plan to appeal this decision.

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