Haverhill man guilty of stabbing Marine
By Karen Kapsourakis , Correspondent

SALEM - Darel Reese was found guilty yesterday of stabbing a Marine veteran outside of a Haverhill bar, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down.

Reese, of Haverhill, was sentenced to 14 to 16 years in prison for the June 10, 2005, stabbing of David Gingrass, 25, also of Haverhill.

"I'm sorry what I did to that family that night. I didn't intend to do what I did that day. I'm sorry," Reese said to Salem Superior Court Judge David A. Lowy before he was sentenced.

Jurors, comprised of eight women and four men, deliberated for almost nine hours over two days, finding Reese guilty on all charges against him.

During the sentencing, written statements from Gingrass' family were read, expressing their sadness over the way his life has changed since being left paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

"Two-thirds of David's body is useless. He has no hope of having children," his mother, Katherine Gingrass, wrote. "My son has been sentenced to life."

Though family members and prosecutors asked for a longer 30-year sentence, Reese was ordered to spend 14 to 16 years in state prison on a charge of armed assault with intent to murder. The judge also gave him another nine to 10 years in prison for two charges of assault and battery causing serious bodily injury, another nine- to 10-year term for assault and battery and a maximum of 21/2 years in jail for the assault and battery. All those sentences will run simultaneously, instead of one after the other.

Two others present during the stabbing, Reese's younger brother, Marcel, and George Cousins, both 19, are already serving three- to five-year sentences after previously pleading guilty to their part in the attack.

The night of the stabbing, the trio went to several bars in downtown Haverhill and were turned away because two of them were underage. Reese's defense attorney, Michael Phelan, said Reese admitted to drinking beer and vodka and smoking marijuana that night.

When the group went to a Washington Street bar, Gingrass was outside smoking a cigarette as they were turned away again.

Gingrass said he suggested they try another bar. It was at that point he was hit in the face, apparently by the younger Reese. Then Darel Reese pulled out a knife and stabbed Gingrass twice in the lung and a third time in the spine, severing his spinal cord.

As Gingrass was on the ground, the three men continued to kick and beat him.

The three men fled from the scene but were arrested after an investigation.

Gingrass, now 25, was paralyzed from the chest down as a result of the attack and is wheelchair-bound. He was a former high school wresting champion who enlisted in the Marines after high school and was working construction at the time of the incident.

Although he chose not to be present for the sentencing or to present any impact statement, the prosecutor presented two statements from his mother and brother.

"As a mother I cry everyday," Katherine Gingrass wrote. "I watch him struggle with spasms. Some days he has courage, most days are not that good. I'm afraid for him all the time. Here is my child and I can't kiss it and make it go away.

His brother, Mark Gingrass, told of how his brother no longer can run or jump trees and has to have all "special" equipment to function.

"His life has stopped. He was cheated of life," Mark Gingrass wrote, going on to plead for Reese to stay behind bars for 30 years.

Prosecutor A.J. Camelio argued for a punishment of at least 30 years in prison based on the violence and randomness of the attack, a motive for which has never been explained.

"We will never know why Reese used a knife when the attack was for no reason," Camelio said. "He used the knife that night to kill Gingrass."

Camelio noted his recommendation took into account the injuries suffered by Gingrass.

"His life ended that night. I hope he can go on," the prosecutor said.

But the Reese family has also been "ruined," Phelan argued while asking for leniency during the sentencing hearing.

Reese is single and was living with his parents, two brothers and a sister at 9 Fifth Ave., according to Phelan. Reese was a good student while in school and had been working at a fast-food establishment, he said.

Phelan, who asked for a six-year prison sentence with a lengthy period of probation, later said he found the 14- to 16-year sentence "very reasonable."

During his sentencing, Lowy noted the "harm" that was done, while saying he couldn't understand why Reese had stabbed his victim not once, but three times. The judge credited Reese for the 551-days he has spent in jail awaiting trial.

But the years Reese will spend in prison will not stop the Gingrass family from mourning everything he has lost.

"I will take this to my grave," Katherine Gingrass wrote in her statement.