Josh Gouker pleads guilty to killing his stepson

Published: May. 10, 2013 at 8:02 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 24, 2013 at 8:02 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn
Josh Gouker during his plea hearing on May 10, 2013.
Josh Gouker during his plea hearing on May 10, 2013.
Josh Young in the courtroom as his father pleads guilty to the murder of Trey Zwicker.
Josh Young in the courtroom as his father pleads guilty to the murder of Trey Zwicker.

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A man confessed to murder Friday, but his son, who is also charged, is not off the hook. In an unscheduled hearing, Josh Gouker pled guilty to killing his stepson Trey Zwicker, 14, and said his own son, who is also charged will beat the rap.

"I'm not manipulating anything," Gouker said. "I'm just ready to be done with it."

In excruciating detail, Gouker laid it all out. On May 10, 2011, Gouker said he started getting mad when he noticed Zwicker had taken his cigarette lighter and eaten a plate of food left for Gouker.

"In the back of my mind, I'm getting tired of him stealing s*** so I'm just going to scare him," Gouker said. "That's all I'm going to do."

Gouker said he invited Zwicker down to the "spot," a creek behind Liberty High School near the intersection of Preston Highway and Indian Trail, where the two smoked marijuana. He said he asked Zwicker for his lighter and when the teen told him he didn't have it, he decided it was time to do something.

"So I started scaring him," Gouker said. "I told him, 'The next time you steal from me, I'm going to treat you like a man,' and he said something about Terry, 'Well then you and my dad will have a problem,' or some s***," Gouker said. "Then I just snapped. I hit him, he went down. I stepped on his hand, pulled the bar. He still had the bar in his hand. He pulled his hand. I hit him. Before I knew it, it was over."

Gouker said after he beat Zwicker to death with a metal pipe, he washed the pipe, went to his cousin's house, stripped and took a shower. Then he said he put the pipe and clothes in a grocery bag and left it in a dumpster behind a Mexican restaurant near his home.

So why confess now after two years of changing stories about what happened to Trey? The answer might have sat just a few chairs down from Gouker Friday: his son, Josh Young, now 17.

"We haven't said anything, there's nothing contained in any of this paperwork about what's going to happen to the charges against Mr. Young," Judge Barry Willett said to Gouker, making sure he understood his plea. "He still stands indicted for murder."

"Yeah but he'll beat it," Gouker answered. "He didn't have nothing to do with it."

After court, Gouker's lawyer wouldn't talk about if his confession was an attempt to clear his son.

"I don't really want to comment on that," Mark Hall said. "The guilty plea speaks for itself."

The plea is what's called an open plea, meaning there is no agreement or deal with prosecutors regarding Gouker's potential sentence. The penalty for murder in Kentucky is 20 to 50 years in prison or life with the possibility of parole in 20 years. Gouker will learn his sentence in late July, the same day Young's murder trial is scheduled to start.

Prosecutors didn't want to say anything about the case because they're moving forward with the case against Young.

After Judge Willett accepted Gouker's guilty plea Friday, Young's attorney asked for him to be released on his own recognizance or on home incarceration.

"We've said all along that our client did not commit this crime," attorney Pete Schuler said. "The evidence in this case was generated by Mr. Gouker. He originally implicated his son and induced people that he had control over to say certain things that would implicate him and also that there is no hard or scientific evidence to link him with this case."

Copyright 2013 WAVE News. All rights reserved.