JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A U.S. Supreme Court ruling has given a local family new hope.
18 years to the day that their 15-year-old son was sentenced to life in prison without parole, Margaret Loring says she doesn't want to visit her son there anymore.
The drive home from prison is the hard part.
"Every time I get in my car I cry all the way back. That my son is even there," said Loring.
But for 18 years Margaret Loring says she's been brave for her son.
"I've almost trained myself to put on a happy smile. But inside I'm torn up. My heart is broken. He's my child, I want to bring my child home," she said.
Mark Berrios was only 15 when a judge in Volusia County sentenced him to life without parole in 1994.
He was convicted of killing 47-year-old Olen Hepler.
Loring admits he did it.
"My son grabbed his gun and killed him with it. After he molested him," she said.
Berrios had run away from home when Hepler picked him up near the boardwalk in Daytona Beach.
He let the young teen drink alcohol and stay with him.
A week in, Berrios says he was held against his will and Hepler molested him.
Berrios shot him in the back of his head and used Heplers truck to get back to Jacksonville.
But Hepler wasn't a stranger to the police in Volusia County before his death.
According to police records, he had been under surveillance as a suspected pedophile for 5 years before Berrios shot him.
With that kind of history, his mother was sure the court would let her son go.
"I thought for sure when we went to court, we had boxes of information, evidence, that this man was a pedophile, we weren't allowed to use any of it. Not even one thing. And that was the law back then," she said.
In 1994, defendants were not allowed to use character evidence in court, so the jurors never heard Hepler's history.
While the law has changed since then, Berrios has lost every appeal and was never granted another trial.
But now, there's hope.
The United States Supreme Court recently struck down life sentences for minors without parole.
Under that ruling, Berrios has a chance to get out.
"I'm hoping with every moment of every day, you can go pick up your son, the papers have been signed," she said.
Berrios is now awaiting his new sentence, and thousands of supporters have rallied around Loring on social media and in the community in her fight to get her son back.
"They say it takes a village to raise a child, well, it takes a village to save a child too," she said.
Berrios' lawyer says he's hopeful he will get a new hearing within the month.
First Coast News