BY COLLEEN LUTOLF
“He is escaping life in prison, but he won’t be escaping his own lie,” Brittney’s mother, Debra Gregory, told the court before Fuller was sentenced. “God will have his day with him.”
Fuller entered Judge Vincent J. Grasso’s Toms River courtroom last Friday with his arms shackled and looking almost exactly as he did when he was first charged with the Brick Memorial High School student’s murder almost 17 months ago — tattooed, goateed, head shaved and wearing a red prison jumpsuit. A single wavy vein stood out on the left side of Fuller’s head as he either stared straight ahead or down at the defense table where he sat.
Fuller’s attorney, John Goins, did not say anything in Fuller’s defense; instead, he told Grasso to “please just sentence my client.”
After maintaining his innocence for over a year, Fuller pleaded guilty to one count of murder on Oct. 18. He confessed to his crime in Grasso’s chambers that day by answering yes or no to questions put forth to him by Goins.
Fuller indicated he punched Brittney Gregory at least twice in the face and head because she had tried to prevent him from smoking crack while he was giving her a ride to her boyfriend’s house. After the beating, Gregory began making choking and gurgling sounds. As blood dripped from her nose and mouth, Fuller continued to get high. By the time he paid any attention to Gregory, she had stopped breathing.
When asked if he would like to address the court before Grasso handed down his sentence, Fuller simply replied, “No, sir.”
Gregory’s family and friends filled three rows of seats behind Fuller. Debra Gregory, Brittney’s mother, was the only member of the victim’s family to address the court.
“I don’t believe for a minute Jack Fuller’s telling the truth about my daughter’s murder,” she said.
She questioned why Fuller took Brittney, why he let her die instead of taking her to a hospital, why he took her clothes off before he buried her, and why he chose not to tell police where he buried her body.
“It’s such a heart-wrenching feeling because she just disappeared without a trace,” she said. “There are so many questions left unanswered and no one knows the answer but Jack … The truth of my daughter’s death will die with Jack Fuller.”
Fuller was a Gregory family acquaintance. The girl’s body was discovered in a shallow grave in the Greenville section of Lakewood two miles from her home almost two weeks after she was reported missing July 11, 2004.
Fuller was facing life without parole if the case went to trial. Debra Gregory said she and her family settled for the plea deal of 30 years without parole because “the justice system would’ve had us on trial, not Jack Fuller.”
Last Friday, Debra Gregory wore a ring Brittney had on her finger when her daughter’s body was discovered. It bears shovel marks.
Calling Brittney her “little angel,” Debra Gregory said her daughter died for something she so strongly believed in — her abhorrence of drugs.
Fuller possesses “vile and evil” character traits, Executive Assistant Prosecutor Ronald DeLigny said. He requested that Grasso give Fuller five years of parole for aggravating factors should Fuller live to be 70 years old — the age he would be upon his release.
Grasso granted the request, saying Brittney’s “abhorrence of drug abuse brought her life to an end.”
Fuller had been arrested 48 times between 1985 and 2004 for drug possession, burglary and weapons charges, Grasso said.