Two girls shot dead in similar circumstances; Two very different sentences

In May 2020, at the height of the COVID pandemic, two shootings in Miami took place under very similar circumstances.

The two incidents happened just five miles and six days apart, but the same courthouse gave the suspects wildly different sentences.

In both cases, a teenage girl was killed by a teenage boy, and the Miami-Dade Circuit Court ruled that the killings were manslaughter. But one boy got years in jail, while the other got just weeks.

Thalys Oliveira, 19, claimed he did not know his gun was loaded when he pointed it at Arya Gray’s head and pulled the trigger in his apartment on May 12, 2020. He was 17 years old at the time and Gray, a Miami Beach Senior High student, was only 15 years old.

Gray’s sister Sasha saw her fall and called 911 before she was pronounced dead at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

In February, Miami-Dade Circuit Court sentenced Oliveira to 11 years in prison and five years probation.

Since Oliveira was under 21 at the time of the shooting, his lawyer hoped the judge would sentence him to two years in prison, followed by a boot camp program and four years probation. But he was tried as an adult. In Florida, manslaughter is a second degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and 15 years probation.

After the verdict, Gray wrote on social media, “Justice has been served.”

Six days after Gray’s shooting, a similar incident took place when Michael McGowan, then 17, opened fire at an AirBnB party in Miami around 8:30 p.m. He killed Giselle Rengifo, whom the police found on the ground with what appeared. be a gunshot wound to the head.

McGowan was arrested on one count of first-degree manslaughter with a deadly weapon. He spent a month in a juvenile facility before his case was transferred to adult court, and he was released with a GPS ankle monitor and did not have to post bail, according to court documents.

The case languished in the court system for another two years. In the Miami-Dade circuit last week, McGowan was finally sentenced to several weeks in prison followed by a bootcamp, after pleading guilty to Rengifo’s murder.

His manslaughter conviction stunned prosecutors and Renifo’s family, who were livid. The emotions were strong. A manslaughter in Florida as an adult could have lasted 30 years. Instead, McGowan was sentenced to 364 days in Dade County Jail, which was adjusted for time already served, meaning McGowan will be released next month, in October 2022.

The judge justified the sentence because he was under 21 at the time of the shooting, had no criminal history and they believed it was an accident.

‘Slap in the face’

Speaking about the verdict, Rengifo’s sister, Salomes Jackson, said Newsweek that his sister was killed the same way as Arya Gray and that McGowan’s sentence was “a slap in the face”.

“His [Gray’s] the shooter turned 11.5 but my sister being African American I guess that’s why she [the judge] did that, gave him a bootcamp,” Rengifo’s sister Salomes Jackson said. Newsweek, referring to the fact that Gray was white and her sister was black.

Arya Gray, left, was killed in similar circumstances to Giselle Rengifo, right. The two incidents happened just five miles and six days apart, but the same courthouse gave the suspects wildly different sentences.
Giselle Rengifo/CBS/Instagram/Salomes Rengifo

All the while, McGowan and his lawyer said he accidentally shot her.

But Jackson and his family believe his sister’s shooting was no accident, and she says she even has Snapchat footage and photos that she says proves it. She got the media through her sister’s SnapChat account, which she had logged into on Jackson’s phone. It includes a video that appears to be McGowan bragging about his gun before Rengifo was killed and a photo of him afterwards. However, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Lody Jean said she could not authenticate it and the footage was not used in court.

“From the very beginning of the trial until the day of the hearing, we did not have a fair trial at all,” Jackson said. “We didn’t get a chance; my sister didn’t get justice. The judge basically ignored us. It was like she was making fun of our family. She just wanted to see us cry and beg in front of the court. court to just give this man a bootcamp.”

McGowan had apologized to Rengifo’s family in court: “I’m so sorry. It’s my fault,” he said.

no call

Jackson said it was an insincere apology and “it was even more disrespectful, he shouldn’t have said anything.”

She said her family and attorney Jasmine Rand tried to appeal the ruling, but the state’s attorney said they couldn’t appeal because the judge gave McGowan the lower sentence. for the crime and that he had pleaded guilty.

“They [the court] say we can’t appeal and it breaks our hearts because we feel like we’ve let my sister down. It’s like we let it down by not even getting this guy to take it away from us. He went out. He’s going out with his friends in a few months.”

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