Jennifer Luna said James Francis Edwards Jr. used to live with her and her son, Chancey Allen Luna, in her home in Duncan, Oklahoma.
James Francis Edwards Jr. (Image source: AP/Stephens County Sheriff's Department)
In fact, she said, Edwards even called her "mom."
Then came the day last August that changed their lives forever — and many others.
Police said Edwards, then 15, and Chancey Luna were in a car allegedly driven by Michael Dewayne Jones. When the trio pulled up toward a jogger, Luna allegedly fired a gun at Christopher Lane, 22, fatally hitting him in the back. Lane, who was from Australia, was a senior on a baseball scholarship at East Central University in Ada and visiting his girlfriend in Duncan.
But earlier this week prosecutors dropped a first-degree murder charge against Edwards in exchange for his testimony against Jones and Chancey Luna — and Jennifer Luna was incensed over Edwards' deal, which doesn't exactly help her son.
"I'm really upset about it," she said, Australia's AAP news service reported Wednesday. "It's awful...I'm sick to my stomach."
Jennifer Luna, right, the mother of 16-year-old murder suspect Chancey Luna, turns away from the media following a court appearance by her son in Duncan, Okla. on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013. (Image source: AP/Sue Ogrock)
Jennifer Luna added that even after Edwards was locked up, he would call her from jail and say, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I still love you, Mom," she recalled to AAP.
"I was like a mom to him."
That's all apparently out the window since Edwards will act as a witness for the prosecution against Jones and Luna's son Chancey in the murder trial.
No longer charged with murder, Edwards instead is charged as a juvenile with accessory to murder after the fact, the Oklahoman reported. But Luna and Jones, who were respectively 16 and 17 at the time of the crime, face separate murder trials later in the year. Both have pleaded not guilty.
More from the Oklahoman:
Prosecutors reached a deal with Edwards in February after deciding his role in the shooting was minimal. They agreed to eventually dismiss the murder charge in exchange for his cooperation. [...]
Edwards testified in February at a preliminary hearing that Luna fired the gun from a car driven by Jones.
He said he had just been picked up for a ride to the courthouse and did not know his friends were going to shoot anyone.
Edwards' mother, Brenda Edwards, said Tuesday that her heart goes out to all the families involved.
"I never got a chance to acknowledge the Christopher Lane family and I just wanted to make that acknowledgement," she said, noted the Associated Press.
Brenda Edwards, right, the mother of James Edwards Jr., talks with her son's defense attorney, Albert J. Hock, Jr., left, in the Stephens County Courthouse in Duncan, Okla., Tuesday, June 17, 2014. (Image source: AP/Sue Ogrocki)
Brenda Edwards herself was in prison for drug charges and released in April, according to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections website, the AP said.
Stephens County District Attorney Jason Hicks told the judge “there is no evidence regarding any conspiracy or other involvement of Edwards in the murder," adding that the evidence "gathered since the time of the murder tends to further implicate Chancey Luna and Michael Jones and further casts doubt on the role of Edwards in the murder,” the Oklahoman reported.
Hicks said Edwards will be prosecuted as an accessory “for his role in concealing the gun used to murder Christopher Lane.”
Since Edwards is now charged as a juvenile, that would limit how long he would be in custody if found “delinquent” of the accessory crime, the Oklahoman noted, adding that Hicks wants Edwards convicted as if he was an adult. He'd face five to 45 years behind bars if a judge assigns him adult status.
A fourth suspect, 22-year-old Oddesse Barnes, was charged in April with allegedly helping Luna and Jones by hiding the murder weapon.
This story has been updated.
(H/T: The Daily Mail)