OKLAHOMA - The presents Alexander Vierling, 21, never got to open two years ago still sit under the Christmas tree.
“And, every year, we put them under the tree. This year, my granddaughter put them under the tree for her Uncle Alex,” said Alexander’s mother, Kelly Vierling.
Alexander died four days before Christmas in 2014.
He was shot in the head at a party in Stillwater.
His mom first thought it was just an accident but then changed her mind after getting more information from police.
“I had no idea he was shot point blank in the forehead with a gun that was less than six inches from his head,” Kelly said.
Thursday afternoon, Alexander’s mother, father and sister stood before a Payne County judge and tearfully gave their victim impact statements.
Tristen Taylor, 20, also stood before the judge with a tear-streaked face and said she couldn’t express how sorry she was Alexander is no longer here.
The judge took the jury’s recommendation and sentenced Taylor to eight months in the Payne County jail.
Last month, the jury found her guilty of second-degree manslaughter.
Taylor’s first trial ended in a hung jury, 12 people not able to come to a unanimous decision on her guilt or innocence.
Alexander’s mother said she is relieved to have this chapter behind her.
She doesn’t believe Taylor set out to kill her son that night but believes she made a series of bad decisions that led to his death.
“For 24 months almost, all I’ve ever wanted was just accountability,” she said.
Taylor’s attorney maintains this was all a tragic accident.
“From the minute this happened, she’s been devastated. Her life’s been changed forever. Everybody whose life touches this tragic case is forever changed,” said Tommy Adler.
The Vierling family said they can now move forward, focusing on the legacy Alexander left behind with 'Lift Like Alex,' a foundation they’re starting to help those who need a lift.
Alexander was a power lifter, but his family said he was also so much more.
“He just kind of lifted you. You know, he could make you smile when you just didn’t think there was a reason to,” Kelly said.
Taylor's sentence included time served, so she will have about seven more months in the county jail.
Her attorney said they will appeal the verdict.