Stanley Cater's shoes are still by the door, his hot cocoa cup hangs over the sink and his bedroom looks exactly the same.
But his mother, Betty Cater, said in a letter to her son's convicted killer that Stanley's absence at home has left a void in her life that will last until she dies.
"His time on Earth was cut short, taken away because you did something very evil," she wrote.
Cater went to the Nassau County Courthouse Thursday to hear what punishment a judge would give Herber Guzman, the East Meadow man convicted in October of her son's slaying.
But Judge William Donnino again delayed the second-degree murder sentencing after Guzman asked for a new lawyer.
Stanley Cater, 46, a handyman who lived with his mother in Hempstead Village, died in April 2012 after taking a shotgun blast in the abdomen. His murder happened four blocks from the place where someone killed his 23-year-old son, Andre Chambers. That 5-year-old slaying remains unsolved.
Guzman, 40, a father of three, has maintained his innocence while facing up to 25 years to life in prison.
Thursday's delay meant Betty Cater, 69, had to leave the courthouse facing another holiday season waiting for justice. A hearing in the case is scheduled in mid-January.
"It's frustrating, but it's a good thing because you don't want to give him ammunition for an appeal," Assistant District Attorney Martin Meaney said of Guzman after the delay.
He read Betty Cater's letter into the court record in November, when Guzman's sentencing was delayed the first time after the defendant raised issues with the judge.
Meaney said Chambers' March 2008 killing is a cold case; it remains unsolved even after police offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
Cater said her son struggled with cocaine addiction and believes he was trying to buy drugs when he died. She wrote that her son "was everything to me; my sunshine," but said he started using drugs at age 12 as she worked long hours as a divorced mother trying to support four children.
She said she retired from a job at Verizon after working there for more than two decades and also owns rental properties, where she'd try to give Stanley work fixing things.
Cater said her grandson had learned home improvement skills as an apprentice to his uncle, a contractor, while living in Alabama with his wife and son before returning to Long Island in the months before he died.
Andre Chambers suffered a gunshot wound to the head inside a house that doubled as an after-hours nightclub. Police were convinced that witnesses saw the shooting, but said in the aftermath that none had come forward.
Cater believes her grandson was in a gang and that played into his death. She said yesterday that minutes before Chambers died, he had called a relative to come pick him up because he sensed trouble.
Cater's son and grandson both had brushes with the law. Chambers went to jail for drug possession and other crimes. Stanley Cater's criminal record included drug possession and burglary convictions, records show.
But Cater said the bad choices her loved ones made doesn't make the wait for justice any less painful.
"I don't think I'm ever really going to have peace," she said.