Man convicted in girl's death seeks to get out of prison early

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 13, 2012

By Shavonne Potts
The family of a young girl killed in 2006 by a drunken driver is angry at the thought of the man responsible for her death being released from prison early.
Ross Edward Neese of Jamestown, who pleaded guilty in 2008 in the death of 8-year-old Patty Burgdoff, is asking to have his sentence commuted or shortened.
Neese received a prison sentence of more than 12 years. But he has submitted a commutation request to the Governor’s Clemency Office, which processes all requests for pardons and commutations.
In 2006, Neese was charged with driving drunk and causing the collision that killed the young girl and injured three others on U.S. 29 in front of Gary’s Barbecue in China Grove.
“We are not going to lay down and let him walk,” said Patricia Burgdoff, Patty’s grandmother.
She received a letter dated April 9 from the clemency office notifying her that Neese had filed an application for commutation.
Burgdoff was told she and any other family member or party involved could provide their views on the matter within 30 days.
“You, as a relative, have the right to express your views,” the letter said.
She said her son Donnie, Patty’s father, is livid.
“He doesn’t know what to do. He was starting to look up, and this is throwing him right back,” she said.
The state agency also sent a letter to the Rowan County District Attorney’s Office.
The clemency office also made Patricia Burgdoff aware of a petition circulating that supports Neese’s early release.
The family has created its own petition online, Patty’s Petition, via social networking site Facebook.
Patricia Burgdoff is in the midst of writing a letter to Gov. Bev Perdue, she said.
She’s also spoken with the local MADD chapter, whose members have shown their support to the family.
“She was an angel. She was special to everyone,” Patricia said of her granddaughter.
When the collision happened, Patty was riding in a car driven by Shania Thompson, the mother of the little girl’s best friend, 7-year-old Justen Morgan. Thompson’s husband, Michael, was in the front passenger’s seat and the children in the back seat.
Michael and Justen suffered multiple fractures. Shania Thompson was pregnant at the time of the wreck but not seriously injured.
During the trial, several witnesses testified Neese was highly intoxicated and drove erratically along the road, and that Neese and two others had been drinking that Friday night.
At the time of the collision, Neese’s blood-alcohol content was .21, nearly three times the legal limit.
The trial began in early October 2008. On the third day of trial, Neese accepted a plea deal.
Unlike pardons, which can be granted after the completion of a sentence, commutations are for those serving an active sentence who request that the sentence be reduced.
If the request is granted, the convicted person’s time could be reduced by any number of years, months or days, or that person could be released immediately.
Patricia Burgdoff said she doesn’t understand that and added if Neese is granted an early release of any kind, it would be devastating.
“He agreed to these terms. Now he wants to renege,” she said.
There are no statutory requirements as to the length of time it would take the governor to issue a commutation, according to a clemency office spokesperson.
Perdue has never pardoned anyone.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.