Sarasota man sentenced to 13.5 years for fatal shooting

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The Center of Anna Maria Island honors the memory of Moriah Hope Goode with a portrait by Anna Maria artist Janet Kingman. The portrait hangs among plaques on a wall at the center, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell

Anna Maria remembers Mariah Hope Goode.

A Sarasota man was sentenced Feb. 8 to 162 months in prison for fatally shooting Goode, who worked on Anna Maria Island as a youth counselor.

Devon Lee Freeman, 23, pleaded no contest to a reduced manslaughter charge in January and was sentenced this month in a Manatee County courtroom. He was in the Manatee County jail Feb. 14, awaiting placement in the Florida Department of Corrections.

Twelfth Circuit Judge Charles Sniffin meted out Freeman’s sentence and included an 821-day credit for time served.

The judge also ordered Freeman to attend a one-day anger management course and serve 18 months probation following his time in prison.

Freeman shot the 18-year-old Goode Nov. 6, 2016, in the 3300 block of Fourth Avenue East in Manatee County, when he unleashed 18 rounds from a handgun with extra capacity. One bullet that went through the front seat of the vehicle, where Goode sat as a passenger, struck her heart.

She was with her friend, Frank Brice, when he and Freeman began arguing.

After the shooting, Brice took Goode to the hospital, where doctors tried to save her.

Throughout the proceedings, Freeman’s attorney, Brett McIntosh, contended his client felt threatened by Brice. The defense attorney told The Islander Feb. 14 that Brice showed Freeman his gun and warned him not to move into the neighborhood.

However, according to Sniffin’s Dec. 21 order that denied Freeman’s stand-your-ground-immunity defense, there was no evidence Brice was carrying a firearm.

McIntosh said, “It was totally a tragedy. Like I said at the sentencing hearing, you have two good people involved in a tragedy. (Freeman’s) a good young man. And it was self-defense, but I didn’t convince the judge of that.”

McIntosh said Goode was an innocent bystander and testimony from Brice, the state’s only witness, about not possessing a gun was not credible.

“That investigators didn’t find a gun anywhere and that means there wasn’t a gun — you’re kidding me,” he added.

Goode’s family and friends supported a maximum sentence for Freeman on Facebook, in letters filed with the court and testimony at the sentencing hearing.

Freeman’s supporters asked the judge for leniency.

Assistant State Attorney Art Brown said he agreed to Freeman’s plea — reducing a second-degree murder charge carrying a life sentence to manslaughter, punishable by a 15-year maximum — because of a lack of credible witnesses.

“Two of the state’s witnesses were associates of the defendant and they could not be counted on for truthful testimony,” Brown said.

McIntosh said he “was pleased to have the second-degree murder charge reduced,” adding that a jury might have thought shooting 18 bullets was excessive and his client would then face the possibility of a life sentence.

At the hearing, the prosecutor recommended the maximum prison sentence for manslaughter, he said, because Freeman killed Goode and could have harmed others.

Four or five bullets went into three or four bedrooms in a neighbor’s home, Brown added, “where others easily could have been killed, as well.”

“I think the judge gave a fair and just sentence. It was most of what the state requested,” Brown said.

McIntosh said he recalled one or two bullets found at the home.

The defense attorney also said he’s planning to appeal Sniffin’s denial of his stand-your-ground motion, which if he wins, will turn around the judge’s sentencing decision.

Meanwhile, people who knew Goode are remembering her talents.

She lived in Holmes Beach and began participating in the teen program at the community center as a shy 12-year-old, according to Aris Thompson, communications manager at the Center of Anna Maria Island.

After the family moved off the island, Thompson said, Goode came back at age 17 and volunteered at the center as an after-school counselor.

“I have known Moriah Goode and her family for many years,” wrote Jacqueline Jordan, an Anna Maria Elementary teacher, in a letter to the court.

Jordan also recounted how Goode was respected at the center. She baby-sat, graduated early, had a bright future as an EMS/ambulance driver and was “a pillar of the community.”

“The kids absolutely loved her,” Thompson said.

“She was a good worker and dependable. She’d listen and observe a lot. She learned about the kids. That’s why she connected with the kids,” she said.

“If I’m having a tough day,” Thompson added, she looks back at a staff birthday card containing a message from Goode: “I’m happy I know you.”

She then remembers the joy Goode brought her and to other people.

“And I’ll think, life is good. I’m OK.”

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