Man shot allegedly breaking into home was turning his life around, mother says

James Earl Sanders was shot in the neck, then died a few days later.

GAINESVILLE, Ga. — The family of a man who was shot and killed after a homeowner said he tried to break in say they think there is more to the story.

James Earl Sanders, 29, was shot in the neck in a Gainesville neighborhood in October. He died a few days later.

Channel 2's Tyisha Fernandes talked to Sanders' mother, who is upset the homeowner wasn't charged with a crime.

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Patricia Terpin said she does not believe her son was robbing the home and that police never interviewed Sanders' family members. She said her son had spent time in prison but was turning his life around. She is begging police not to close the case so quickly.

Fernandes also spoke to the shooter's wife, who told a very different story. The woman, who doesn't want to be identified, said Sanders was trying to rob the home and even threatened to kill her.

Police said Sanders walked up the couple's driveway at their home in Gainesville around 9 a.m. Oct. 15. The homeowner said he tried to get into the house, and when she called 911 he threatened her.

"I got on the phone to call 911, and he leaned his face in and said, 'I’ll tell you what: If you’re calling the law, that’ll be the last time you ever called anybody,'" she said.

Police said Sanders didn't stop trying to break in after she called police.

"He goes further and gets straight in front of the kitchen window, so I lean around about the same time he does," the woman said. "He said, 'I'm gonna kill you.'"

That's when the woman's husband came outside and threatened Sanders with a shotgun. Police said he shot Sanders in the neck.

Fernandes spoke to investigators, who said the homeowner fired after Sanders charged him. Sanders died at the hospital three days later.

Sanders' mother is upset that the police didn't investigate the case further.

"He was human too. He had feelings. He had plans and goals, things he wanted to achieve," Terpin said. "And they're treating him like some common thug."

Terpin and Sanders' girlfriend, Rhonda Newman, both said they had a hard time believing he was trying to break into a house.

"I don’t wanna point fingers or anything but I just know he didn’t do it and he didn’t deserve to be shot," Newman said.

Newman said she had just talked to Sanders 10 minutes before he was shot. She said Sanders was talking about how much he was looking forward to his daughter's birthday.

"I can’t even describe the feeling," Newman said. "And now we have to pick up what's left and move on and we can’t. We don’t know what happened."

Police told Fernandes they are still investigating the case.