Mother of slain student speaks out about 2019 death of son

A mother whose 18-year-old son was murdered more than two years ago now knows the fate of his killer.

Marion Gavins will spend 40 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to first-degree murder charges in the shooting death of Palm Coast High School student Curtis Gray.

Gray’s mother, Carmen Gray, faced her son’s killer in the courtroom last week for the sentencing.

"He said to me that he was sorry for his arrogance. He knew that it wouldn’t bring my son back" Carmen Gray said.

Those were the words Carmen heard from her son’s killer in a Flagler County courtroom.

"He mentioned, ‘I’m going away for a long time, but my mother will still be able to see me. And you’ll never see your son again,’" she said.

Gray last saw her son, 18-year-old Curtis Gray on a FaceTime call just hours before he died.

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Investigators said Gavins, who was 17-years-old at the time, shot Gray outside a smoke shop in 2019.  The next phone call Carmen received was from the surgeon who was operating on her son. 

"And the words a mother does not want to hear, any parent, is ‘I’m so sorry.’ And I just remember how that made me feel and how helpless [I felt]. The enormity of that pain cannot really be described," she said.

Carmen said she felt that same pain again in the courtroom last week while she watched the man who took her son’s life to be brought to justice, which is something she was anticipating for more than two years.

"I’ve been waiting to exhale. I thought that I would get that in the courtroom. I kept waiting to feel this monumental sense of relief," Carmen said.

Instead of relief, Carmen said she still feels the weight of her loss. She also still wonders about that night. She said her son did not know Marion, and she still does not know why he shot him.

"The reality my son is not coming back. He’s just not. Nothing is going to change the outcome. So the relief that I was waiting for, I haven’t found that yet."

Carmen somehow still finds the strength to smile while showing pictures of her son and telling about his memory. She said he was a talented athlete, invested in helping others, and was a senior just weeks away from graduation.

"It’s difficult to talk about because of some of these moments he missed and they were mile markers in every young person’s life. I had to receive his graduation diploma, which was something he was really looking forward to. I walked the stage for my son," she said.

Carmen has also received awards in her son’s honor for his performance on and off the field and she takes an active role in a Long Live Curt Foundation that continues a peer-to-peer support group that Curtis started with other teens. It goes along with the motto he followed: "be great."

"I made my son a promise. I made him a promise that I would be great. I try to put that first and foremost in my mind. [I am] just taking it one step at a time and I’m in a place of management right now.

Carmen is also in the process of writing a book to help other parents navigate the process of grieving the loss of a child.

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