Slain woman's son upset with killer's plea deal

Charge to be reduced to involuntary manslaughter, no prison
Sep. 06, 2013 @ 08:45 AM

Scott Hardin had hoped one day to return to Lenoir from Denver, Colo., to see the man who killed his mother brought to justice.

Hardin is returning this weekend, but he expects to leave Monday with more questions than answers.

His stepfather, Herbert Lawrence "Larry" Peck, 71, is charged with murder and accused of shooting Hardin's mother, Glenda Peck, several times shortly after 4 a.m. Nov. 14, 2009, in the kitchen of their house on Covington Way. Glenda Peck, 66, was on the phone with 911 operators at the time, telling them her husband was having a medical problem and was becoming violent. When deputies arrived, the house was locked but they could see through a window that Glenda Peck was on the floor. They forced their way in and found Larry Peck hiding in the bathroom closet.

Trish Walker, Glenda Peck's sister, told the Hickory Daily Record at the time that the couple were arguing about money the night of Nov. 13.

Peck's trial most recently had been scheduled for Dec. 9, but Hardin said he has been told by the district attorney's office that Peck will plead guilty Monday in Caldwell Superior Court to involuntary manslaughter. Worse, Hardin says, he was also told the plea agreement would not send Peck to prison.

"I would like for ... (District Attorney Jay Gaither) to be the protector and do his job, step up to the challenge and find justice for my mom," Hardin said Thursday.

Gaither declined to comment.

Court records show that Peck's attorney, Victoria Jayne, had Peck examined by four medical experts, who all found that due to his diabetes, Peck suffers from a condition called "automatism," in which low glucose levels in the blood can result in delirium, and he may take actions while in an unconscious state of mind. The doctors agreed that Peck likely was not aware he shot his wife.

Court records also show Peck, a military veteran, suffers from a host of medical issues, including diabetes, depression, dementia, and chronic pain from a neck and spine injury that occurred while he was in the Army.

Hardin believes Peck was in control during the shooting.

"He shot my mother in the heart from 30 feet away, walked over to her and shot her four more times in the back," he said. "I don't know why they wouldn't want to prosecute this. I'm dumbounded."

But Jayne, Peck's defense attorney, said Peck's medical condition is real, he doesn't remember what happened, and he has been in deep grief ever since the shooting. Hardin filed a wrongful death suit against Peck in 2011, which Jayne said adds to that suffering.

"I empathize with Mr. Hardin's loss," Jayne said. "But he (Peck) has lost his wife and his lovely home. The two were very active in the community. Peck does not remember what he did, and is suffering the loss. It's unfortunate Mr. Hardin won't listen to my experts."

Peck has been out of jail since October 2011, when he was allowed to post $35,000 bond with special conditions. Peck had to surrender his driver's license, could not own a firearm or other deadly weapon, and was required to stay within New York and New Jersey unless returning to North Carolina for further court proceedings. Peck went to live with his son, Lawrence Peck of Rochester, N.Y., and then his daughter, Marie Schmidt of Hadlet, N.J.

Jayne says the plea agreement is a fair one.

"Would I have preferred he dismissed the charges? Yes," Jayne said. "I really applaud Mr. Gaither for evaluating the case and reaching this conclusion, rather than go through a lengthy trial."