The phone rang in the middle of the night. Carol Kent rolled over as her husband, Gene, reached for the receiver. She glanced at the clock on her bedside table: 12:35 a.m.
Who would be calling in the middle of the night? Carol wondered. By Gene's tone she knew it wasn't good news.
Gene turned toward Carol and choked out, "J.P. has been arrested for first-degree murder."
Not J.P. she thought as nausea swept over her.
After all, their only child, J.P., was a strong Christian and family man. He was a respected Navy officer.
But his wife, April, was on the phone confirming their worst nightmare.
The victim, Douglas Miller Jr., April's ex-husband, had multiple allegations of abuse against him involving his wife and two young daughters. He'd petitioned the court for unsupervised visitation rights with his girls. When it appeared the court would approve the request, J.P. had become outraged, telling his wife he didn't know how to protect the girls.
J.P. and April took paperwork on the abuse issues to an attorney, and were told on a scale of 1 to 10, they had about an "8" in provable abuse, which might not be enough to keep supervised visits intact. J.P. began to unravel with obsessive fear, and on October 24, 1999, while witnesses looked on, he stood in the parking lot of Sweet Tomatoes restaurant and shot Douglas four times, killing him.
Truth and consequences
For the remainder of that first dark night and for years after, the Kents's marriage was stretched and tested as they tried to come to grips with the new reality of their life. They endured two and a half years and seven postponements before the trial took place. In the end J.P. was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole.1