Florida murder trial: Victims’ parents brand teen killer “evil”

TEEN killer Shawn Tyson will spend the rest of his life behind bars after being unanimously convicted of the murders of Warwick man James Cooper and his friend James Kouzaris.

The 17-year-old was found guilty of two counts of first degree murder by a jury at Sarasota County Courthouse in Florida late Wednesday night and was sentenced to two life terms without the eligibility of parole. The jury of eight women and four men found the teenager unanimously guilty of shooting both men, while they were on holiday in the USA last April, after deliberating for around two hours.

In a statement issued through the Lucie Blackman Trust, the families of Mr Cooper, who grew up in Kenilworth and moved to Hampton Lucy near Warwick, and Mr Kouzaris of Northampton, branded Tyson “evil” and said: “We are satisfied with the verdict.

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“It is a fact that we were given a life sentence when our sons were so brutally and needlessly taken from us.

“Ours is a life sentence, with no chance of parole from a broken heart and a shattered soul.

“The agonising and searing pain we have experienced will continue until our sentence is at an end.

“The evil of the killer is one thing, but the fact is, he would not have been on the streets had instructions to keep him incarcerated been passed from one judge to another.

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“We would like to thank Detective Todd and his team for their tireless work, and the previous Mayor of Sarasota, Kelly Kirschner, for his support. We would also like to thank the prosecutor, Karen Fraivillig, and her team for all their hard work.

“We would also give our love and thanks to all our friends and family for their love and support.”

The families were not present for yesterday’s hearing.

Tyson, wearing an orange shirt and brown tie, sat emotionless as the verdict was read out to the court, as did his mother, Kenyatta Whitfield, in the public gallery.

During the week-long trial, the court heard how the two friends were confronted by Tyson, who tried to rob them. When they told him they had no money, he said: “Well since you ain’t got no money, I got something for your ass”.

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The men pleaded to go home, saying they were drunk, but the teenager, who was then aged just 16, first shot one of them, then the other. Both men died from bullet wounds to the heart.

Tyson then boasted to a friend, Latrece Washington, that one of the victims was “crying for his life”, and he had shot him and “emptied the clip on him”. The teenager was seen by neighbours running to his house and climbing in a window shortly after the gunshots. He also told another friend, Marvin Gaines, he had killed the men.

Mr Gaines said Tyson gave him seven 0.22 calibre shell casings to bury in his backyard, as well as a gun.

Mr Gaines later gave the gun to a friend, Jermaine Bane, who sold it for $50. After he was threatened with a charge of accessory to murder, Mr Gaines led police to where the casings were buried. The murder weapon has never been found.

Tyson had been arrested on April 7 – nine days before the killings – for shooting at a car.

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