A Charlotte man will serve at least 50 years in prison after a Mecklenburg County jury convicted him of molesting boys dating back more than a decade.
Gromoka Carmichael, 38, was sentenced Thursday to between 600 and 820 months in custody after he was found guilty of multiple sexual offenses involving two male victims, including statutory sexual offense, three counts of first-degree sexual offense, and attempted first degree sexual offense involving two victims.
Defense attorney Bob Trobich, who did not immediately respond to a Friday phone call by The Charlotte Observer, gave notice of an appeal at the close of the trial.
Both of Carmichael's victims testified against him, as did a third boy who likewise accused the defendant of abusing him. The latter's allegation had not factored into the criminal charges heard by the jury and Superior Court Judge Donnie Hoover.
All the victimes were between the ages of 7 and 11 when the assaults occurred. In each case, according to the Mecklenburg County District Attorney's Office, Carmichael was either a relative or close friend of the children's mothers or grandmothers.
"It's always someone you know," said the Charlotte mother of one of the victims, who asked that she and her child not be identified. She said her son had waited 10 years before ever telling her of Carmichael's abuse.
"Kids be scared," the mother told The Charlotte Observer, when asked why her son had stayed silent for so long.
"I just hope that this story can bring a lot of children forward, to not be afraid, to know that the Mecklenburg County District Attorney's Office is going to go. They're going to do whatever they need to do to get justice for the families."
The case against Carmichael surfaced in 2018 when one of his victims reported that he had been assaulted by Carmichael shortly after it happened.
Around that same time, the teenage son of the Charlotte mother first told her of being assaulted by Carmichael years earlier, when he was 7 or 8. The mother said Carmichael, who she knew as "Pookie," was a close friend of hers at the time of the abuse.
The mother said thought her son's case was an isolated one.
"My son told me, we went downtown, and maybe four days later, they went and locked him up. They were already investigating him. Praise God," the mother recalled.
"When the shock wore off, I was able to put things in a little perspective. I thought, 'He's done this to other children?' I was devastated."
Both the mother and son testified at Carmichael's trial. The ban on witnesses being in the courtroom kept her from hearing the son took the witness stand.
It wasn't until closing arguments Thursday when the mother says she finally heard a full account of Carmichael's abuse of the three boys, including her own.
"I was trying to hold myself together in that seat. You know, you can't get loud," the mother said.
"I was trying to not cry too much. But I was looking at (Carmichael) and thinking, 'You hurt a child. You had your way with another person's child.' It was devastating."
For now, she said, she's been bolstered by the relief she's seen in her son's face.
Asked if she had a message for Carmichael, her former friend, the mother's voice dropped and her cadence slowed.
"I've been searching for some way to forgive you because I have to forgive you to move on," she said.
"I'm still trying. I'm still praying."
Meanwhile, the mother of the first victim to come forward had a different reaction.
"I hope he rots in hell," she told the Observer on during a Friday phone interview.
She, too, had become a friend of Carmichael's after the two had worked together in a nursing home. She knew Carmichael as "Butterfinger."
The second mother and her son, now 15, also testified at the trial. She said she broke down and almost passed out on the witness stand.
"I started talking about it, and I couldn't take it," she said. "Seeing him there took me back to those days," when she says her family confronted Carmichael at his home before calling police.
Her son was riding in the backseat of the car while his mother spoke.
Asked if it had been an ordeal to testify against his abuser, the 15-year-old said it had not, that it was something he felt he had to do.