Tattoos crept above the collar of Charles Francis Gaskins' black-and-white shirt with the big, bold letters on the back that read "COURT."
Marked in blue ink across his throat were the numerals "23". The number helped explain why Gaskins was about to get sentenced Friday to life in prison, on his admission of murder, by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Sharon A. Lueras.
In the prison culture, authorities say, the 23rd letter in the alphabet, W, is known as the first letter for the correctional system's racial designation of "white."
According to his probation report, Gaskins was a member of the longtime white supremacist prison group called the "Peckerwoods."
As a Peckerwood, Gaskins was obligated to attack anybody within his ethnicity with a history of child molestation. In Gaskins' case, he was on parole four years ago and living with his wife in the house she owned on Whitney Avenue in Carmichael when an old acquaintance from the Deuel Vocational Institution near Tracy, Neil Lee Hayes, got out of prison. Looking for a place to live, Hayes moved in with Gaskins, now 48, and his wife, Sandra Sheaves, 43.
Sheaves did some Internet research and discovered Hayes was a registered sex offender on the Megan's Law website. She told Gaskins, and on or about June 30, 2009, he obtained a rock and bashed Hayes, 66, to death. Gaskins and his wife later disposed of the body near Placerville, but not before they drove up to South Lake Tahoe for a little gambling action, authorities said.
As part of his no-contest plea, Gaskins insisted authorities go easy on Sheaves, who also was charged with Hayes' murder. They did, agreeing to let her plead no contest to accessory to murder. Judge Lueras sentenced her to eight years in prison. With time served, Sheaves is expected to be released in 66 days, according to her attorney, James Warden.
Lueras sent No. 23 off to prison Friday for 26-to-life, with no comment. But she had plenty to say to Sheaves, who holds a master's degree in psychology and who, according to her probation report, was a doctoral candidate in forensic psychology when she told her husband that Hayes was a registered sex offender; when she witnessed Gaskins hitting Hayes in the head with the rock; when she helped tie Hayes up before they were sure he was dead; when they stuffed his body into the trunk of her car and drove to the Bay Area, Davis, South Lake Tahoe and Placerville before making the dump.
"Ms. Sheaves," Lueras told the female defendant, "you are a puzzle."
Yes, she was an educated woman, but "you don't have the common sense God would give to a rock," the judge said. Lueras said she agreed to the plea deal, but only because it meant it would be easier to dispatch Gaskins to prison.
"In a way, you almost instigated this, by showing the information from Megan's Law to Mr. Gaskins," Lueras said.
Sheaves' lawyer, Warden, said outside court that her relationship with Gaskins was "complicated." She was a Ph.D. candidate; he had a high school diploma. She doesn't drink or use drugs; he does. She's only got a couple of little thefts on her record; he's a Peckerwood. She was a homeowner; he was a parolee.
According to the lawyer, Sheaves ran Hayes' information because she didn't like the ex-prisoner coming to live with them.
"She checked up on him and says, 'Here, Chuck. Guess what? This guy, just get him out of the house.' "
Warden described Sheaves as a domestic abuse victim who wouldn't leave Gaskins because "she's got a real need to be a companion with someone." When he wasn't cranked up on meth or drunk, "she would tell you there's a part of Chuck that's kind and gentle," Warden said.
Deputy District Attorney Valerie Brown asked the court to spare the sympathy.
Sheaves knew Gaskins "was a white supremacist," Brown said, and that as a Peckerwood, "he could not stand for a child molester to be around him." Remorse? Brown said she didn't see any. Sheaves wouldn't even lead authorities to Hayes' body, the deputy DA said, until she got a deal.
"It was all about Ms. Sheaves," Brown told Lueras.
Nobody appeared in court on behalf of Hayes, but the victim's brother, John, submitted a one-page statement about his sense of loss.
"My brother Neil was a good man," John wrote. "Somewhere he went wrong. We tried numerous times to help him. He would do good for a bit, then go back to the same lifestyle."
Gaskins and Sheaves, John said, "broke God's law, Thou Shalt Not Kill. Their reward awaits them."
Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.