A Durham man will serve between 26 and 35 years in prison after a jury found him guilty of attempted murder in a July 2014 shooting.
Shenandoah Freeman’s victim, Amber Gottschalk, 28, formerly of Durham, underwent 12 surgeries and had her left leg amputated after being shot six times.
She was the sole witness to the shooting in the parking lot of the Scottish Inn on U.S. 70 in eastern Orange County.
Her mother Eileen Michele Dove, who held her daughter close during the verdict, told the court what it was like to get the call that Gottschalk had been shot, having to explain it to Gottschalk’s young sons, and the “horror” of watching her fight for her life.
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Gottschalk, after three months in Duke Hospital and 15 months in rehab, is building a new life with her children, Dove said.
“While her prosthetic leg is a badge of courage and a symbol of strength, it is also a daily reminder of what her life was and that her life almost ended, but for the grace of her Creator, she survived,” she said. “Today, Amber is a beautiful, strong, sober young woman with the gift of a fresh start and a chance at a happy, fulfilled life.”
“As for the defendant, I can only pray that he will have years and years to ponder the value of a human life,” she said.
Freeman didn’t testify, but defense attorney Natasha Adams said he maintains his innocence. No physical evidence links him to the crime, she said, and the gun was never found.
Freeman has always been there for his daughter and nephews, his sister Vakema Brewer said; his family believes he is innocent.
“I am so sorry for what happened to you,” Brewer told Gottschalk through tears. “I, in my heart, know that he didn’t (do it). He is a good man.”
The jury of seven men and five women deliberated for 20 minutes Tuesday in Orange County Superior Court before also finding Freeman, 42, guilty of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury, shooting into an occupied vehicle inflicting serious bodily harm and possession of a firearm by a felon.
Superior Court Judge Jim Hardin suggeted job training and substance abuse and psychological treatment. It’s not his job to preach, he told Freeman.
“But I am utterly amazed that you’re not standing here having been charged and convicted of first-degree murder,” Hardin said. “It’s an absolute miracle that this lady survived the wounds that you inflicted on her.”
‘Lived in fear’
Gottschalk testified she met Freeman at the Scottish Inn in February 2014, when he responded to her escort services ad.
He became a friend and sold her cocaine, she said, offering “protection” for a 40 percent cut of her earnings – from $200 to $2,000 a day.
That changed in May 2014, she said, when he put a gun to her head, pistol-whipped her, ziptied her wrists and put her in a rug in the back of his car.
Soon Freeman started taking all the money, she said.
She was working at the Red Roof Inn when the manager called Durham police to check on her welfare, Gottschalk said. They found her there alone, arrested her for drug possession and asked about her bruises, she said.
Freeman, who was charged with assault and kidnapping, sent a bondsman to get her out of jail, Gottschalk said. She was afraid to leave and signed a statement clearing him, she said.
“I was scared of him, so I worked, gave him all my money,” she said. “I was scared, timid around him. I lived in fear, so I did what I knew I had to do.”
But she did leave a short time later, Gottschalk said, living on the streets and using drugs. She returned to the Scottish Inn on July 16 after calling a friend who lived there to get some heroin, she said. He picked her up after work, and they stopped by the motel first to renew his room key.
Motel surveillance video showed a purple Nissan Infiniti arriving first. While Freeman is not clearly identified in the video, Gottschalk and another witness, Earnest Perry, testified that Freeman was driving the car, which does not belong to him, that day.
The video showed Perry parking a Lincoln Town Car next to the Infiniti moments later and Freeman getting into the Town Car. Gottschalk and her friend Kenny Peaks arrived shortly, parking Peaks’ landscaping truck around the corner. Gottschalk stayed behind while Peaks went to the office.
Freeman is recorded returning to the car, while Perry drives away. The video showed Freeman pulling up beside the truck and walking to its open window before speeding away in the car. Gottschalk testified Freeman got out of the car with a gun after she refused to go with him.
“He pulled the gun out from where the console was – there was a white washcloth on top of the gun – he pulled the gun out, and the next thing I know I was leaking blood and I went into shock,” she said.
Freeman was driving the Infiniti when Raleigh police arrested him nearly four hours later.
Adams unsuccessfully fought the video evidence and tried to squelch details of the earlier assault. She also lost an attempt to have Gottschalk barred from the courtroom during the trial. Other witnesses were allowed in only to testify.
Prosecution evidence also showed 9mm shell casings and bullets found at the scene matched those that Perry said Freeman took from his home, and cell phone records put Freeman near the motel before and during the shooting.
Freeman’s motive was control and money, Assistant District Attorney Lamar Proctor said.
“She testified that she was at the Scottish Inn. He told her to get in the car. She refused; he shot her, because he’s the pimp,” Proctor said. “He’s got to maintain a strong hand. He can’t have her doing what she wants. He can’t be missing out on $200 to $2,000 a day. That’s his motive for shooting her.”