FORT MYERS, Fla. -- 38 years. That's how long the Cape Coral man accused of murdering his step grandfather will spend behind bars. Garrett Kern admitted to the crime Tuesday in court and for the first time his family heard why he killed his step grandfather.
In an emotional interview, the widow of James Arthur, Sally Arthur, said she hasn't forgiven Garrett Kern for the murder of her husband but said she loves him.
"It will never close. I have two empty chairs for holidays, birthdays. I will never seen Garrett again out of jail in my lifetime," said Sally Arthur, widow.
Sally Arthur and her son Tracey said the plea deal Garrett Kern took in court is like reliving the murder of James Arthur all over again.
"Its very, very hard to walk away today knowing that this is a long, long time. Part of the healing process is forgiving and I haven't got there yet. I dont forgive you Garrett for what you did but I do love you," said Arthur.
As part of a no contest plea, Kern told the court he killed his step grandfather in October 2011, went to Hustlers bar and admitted to friends inside what he had done, dumped James' body in a Cape Coral field and fled the state in James' car.
"There's really no difference between a guilty plea and a plea with no contest. Its essentially a plea of convenience," said Andreas Gardiner, Assistant State Attorney.
But for the first time, Sally Arthur was able to hear why her husband was killed.
"He said that there was something they discussed in the past. What I think is probably Jim said to Garrett, you've got to get your life straightened up and it just ticked him off I think," said Arthur.
The State hopes the plea deal will give the family closure. The family is just thankful it's beginning to come to an end.
"I definitely think that he manned up and doing the plea agreement today and that I do love him and I do appreciate him not dragging my mom and myself through a lengthy trial. There is certainly no hatred there towards Garrett. He has a long struggle ahead of him and we do love him as a family," said Tracey Warford, Garrett Kern's father.
If Kern turned down the plea deal, the case would have gone to trial and he could have faced life behind bars. The plea deal with 38 years behind bars includes credit for time already served.