The parents of Joey Paul Bellinger admitted Tuesday that they helped their 16-year-old son flee Southern California to Upstate New York to avoid prosecution for the shooting of two deaf Palmdale brothers.
Joseph Paul Bellinger Sr., 40, and Phyllis Mary Goodman, 37, of Long Beach entered pleas in Long Beach Municipal Court to charges of aiding and abetting a suspected felon. Their son has been charged with killing Cesar Vieira, 30, and wounding Vieira’s brother, Edward, 25, in January.
Prosecutors said the couple advised their son not to turn himself in after the shootings, then arranged for him to stay with a friend in the tiny community of Cassville, N.Y., where he was arrested by FBI agents a month later.
Bellinger Sr. pleaded no contest to the charge as a felony, which carries a maximum sentence of three years in state prison. Goodman pleaded guilty to the same offense as a misdemeanor, which has a maximum penalty of a year in County Jail.
But under the terms of a plea agreement reached with defense attorneys, Deputy Dist. Atty. Alan Fork said he will ask the judge to sentence Bellinger to 30 days in County Jail and three years’ probation, and to grant Goodman probation with no jail time.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Denis Petty said the plea agreement was reached because the couple’s actions can be attributed to “the normal human emotions of parenthood.”
Bellinger’s defense attorney, Jeffrey Le Beau, said the couple never intended to shield their son from prosecution indefinitely.
The couple, whose older daughter, Michelle, was raped and murdered in 1987 at age 16, merely wanted guarantees that their only surviving child would be tried as a juvenile rather than as an adult, the attorney said.
The senior Bellinger briefly tried to negotiate a surrender for his son with police, but authorities refused to promise a Juvenile Court trial. A Sylmar Juvenile Court judge has ordered a hearing July 9 to hear prosecution arguments that the teen-ager should stand trial as an adult.
“This is their last child and I think that they felt they were in a very, very difficult position,” Le Beau said. “They were under a lot of stress and whatever they did, they did out of love for their son.”