Outside of the courtroom in the hallway, Virginia McDaniel’s voice breaks as she pleads to the district attorney. Surrounded by family and friends, the mom has just found out the man who killed her 31-year-old son refuses to come into the courtroom.
She stares ahead unwavering as she tells the attorney she feels cheated out of her day in court.
“I want him to look at me one time,” she said.
Anna Reali watches while wearing a green T-shirt with a photo of the slain father of her children that says, “No matter what ... in our hearts.” Her voice rises as she says it is not her fault that they missed the original sentencing, the one time they would have been guaranteed to speak in front of the man who pulled the trigger.
“This is not my mistake,” Reali said.
The family of Brian McDaniel, who was shot in the back in July 2011, expressed their frustration with missing the original sentencing earlier this year because they said the San Joaquin Superior Court did not inform them.
Kevin Jackson, who was 23 at the time of the crime, took a plea deal and was sentenced to 27 years for the murder of McDaniel.
Molly Rachelle Wilson, 25, also was charged with premeditated murder, being an accessory after the fact and being a felon or addict in possession of a firearm. Her case is ongoing.
On Friday morning, the case was back in court because of a technical error with one of the charges. Judge Elizabeth Humphreys allowed the family to speak, even though it would not change the sentence. When Jackson refused to come out, Virginia McDaniel vented her frustration.
“I feel it’s useless to say anything. I need him to hear what I have to say,” the mom said.
Humphreys said that legally, she had no authority to force Jackson into the courtroom.
“What I do have the authority to do is to listen to every word, and to put it in the record and history of this case,” she said.
Virginia McDaniel, still clutching her Kleenex, asked for justice for her family.
“My murdered son’s young kids have to grow up and see that man walk the streets,” she said in reference to Jackson. “My justice is when his... family has to make funeral arrangements.”
In between wiping tears and shallow breaths, Reali said she worries about the future of her children without their dad there.
“Long before the birth of our first child I knew that Brian would be part of my life forever,” Reali said. “Unfortunately, his forever was taken, but Brian will remain a part of my life until the day I join him.”
While the court was mostly full with people outraged about McDaniel’s death, one woman stood up to make a statement on behalf of Jackson. His mother, Mindy Eubanks, said her family is suffering too.
“This cannot be undone, and I understand that. But I have lost my son as well,” she said.
The path that led both mothers to the courtroom Friday started on July 20, 2011 in the 1400 block of East Acampo Road.
McDaniel was born in Modesto before residing in Lockeford for nine years. He also lived in Galt for several years. He had recently moved with his family to Idaho, but was back in town for a funeral.
At a preliminary hearing, David Gaueut, a beekeeper, testified both Jackson and McDaniel were at his house that day. The two went over to the beehives while Gaueut went into his home.
A minute later, he heard a gunshot and saw McDaniel run out from near the beehives, and about 15 to 20 feet behind McDaniel was Jackson with a gun, he said.
Gaueut said at the hearing that he heard Jackson fire three or four more shots at McDaniel’s back before McDaniel disappeared around a corner of Gaueut’s house.
Dan McDaniel said his son, Brian McDaniel, knew Wilson for several years. He is grappling with not only his son being taken away, but also what he believes is an unfair sentence.
“We have no reason why they shot and killed him. No one can give us an answer. This has tore my family up. The state of California has slapped us in the face,” he said.
The family said McDaniel was a dedicated father who was always willing to help out his friends.
“Ask anyone who they could call if they needed someone to be there and you would hear everyone say, ‘McD.’ His loyalty to his friends, that turned out to be his greatest fault. It was this loyalty that placed him in a situation that cost him his life,” Reali said, referring to Brian McDaniel coming into town for a friend’s funeral.
Brian McDaniel was a mama’s boy, Dan McDaniel said, who enjoyed fixing up Harley-Davidson motorcycles. He was a member of the Vagos Motorcycle Club, which the FBI has defined as an outlaw motorcycle gang.
“Brian was an honest boy. He would not let anything happen to me, his mother or his children,” Dan McDaniel said.
All of the family members said the loss of their son, brother, soulmate and the father of Reali’s children is harder because they were not able to speak at the original sentencing.
As the family sat in court, most of the women wiped away tears while the men squared their jaws.
“I’m not sure how I will teach my kids about hope and justice when it is so evident that the system has failed them,” Reali said.
She said it is even more upsetting to know Jackson will eventually get out of jail when his kids are young adults.
“A piece of my son died there that day with his dad, a child destroyed in front of my eyes and all at the hands of two godless criminals, for no apparent reason at all? In that single moment, someone deciding to play God cast a lifetime of sorrow on so many people,” Reali said.
After Anna Reali finished her statement, Virginia McDaniel stood up and walked out of the courtroom.
“This was just a pacifier,” she said.
McDaniel’s sister Deanna McDaniel, who lives in Galt, was outraged that she could not speak to Jackson face-to-face.
“He can pull a trigger, but he can’t show his face?” she said.
Outside the courtroom, surrounded by members of McDaniel’s family and his friends, Deanna McDaniel said she does not know where her family goes from here.
“We totally got burned out of our rights from day one. We didn’t get justice. We didn’t get Brian back. And Kevin’s still breathing our air,” she said. “And he will get out unless he gets killed in there, which I hope he does.”