Vincent Madhavath, 45, was found guilty as charged by a jury on Thursday, Sept. 29.

SENTENCING UPDATE: Winter Haven man gets 20 years

Vincent Madhavath was sentenced to 20 years in prison Friday for hiring a hitman to kill his wife.

Vincent Madhavath, 45, of Winter Haven.

Madhavath, 45, was convicted of attempted first-degree murder and solicitation to commit first-degree murder by a jury on Sept. 29, 2016, after a three-day trial in front of Judge Yancey. Following his 20-year sentence, Yancey also gave him 10 years of probation.

During the trial, jurors learned Madhavath planned to have a hitman – who was an undercover Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent – enter his home after midnight and shoot his wife in the head.

The undercover FDLE agent and Madhavath met numerous times between May 2014 and August 2014 to discuss the details of the murder. In a video recording from one of their meetings, Madhavath handed the agent $5,000 in cash and a photo of his wife.

Assistant State Attorney Ashley McCarthy asked Judge Yancey to sentence Madhavath to 30 years in prison.

“He may not have been the one pulling the trigger,” McCarthy said, “but he’s more dangerous because he’s the mastermind.”

Madhavath’s wife pleaded with the judge to only sentence him to eight years because she needed him at home to help with their children. Friends of Madhavath’s sent in letters on his behalf, telling the judge he’s a “good guy.”

McCarthy said that Madhavath may seem like a good person from his friends’ perspectives, “but we saw the real him,” she said.
Judge Yancey sentenced him to 20 years, stating that he believed Madhavath was living a double life.

Trevontae Shuler, 21, of Lake Wales.

JURY VERDICT: Lake Wales man guilty of armed robbery

Trevontae Shuler walked up to Pizzano’s Pizza with a red hoodie tied tightly around his face and a gun in his hand.

The firearm Shuler used to rob Pizzano’s Pizza sits in evidence Wednesday during trial.

About 5:15 p.m. on April 15, 2016, Shuler entered the Lake Wales store and pointed the weapon at the 16-year-old cashier, demanding she give him all the money from the register. Once he had the cash in hand, Shuler fled from the Lake Wales store, avoiding arrest by Lake Wales Police Department officers and a K-9.

Five days later, police spotted Shuler – who was wearing a hoodie tied around his face – at a RaceTrac. Shuler fled from officers again but was apprehended by a K-9 after ignoring requests to stand down.

A two-day trial came to a close after the jury deliberated for less than five minutes Thursday morning, finding Shuler guilty of robbery with a firearm.

Trevontae Shuler, 21, of Lake Wales.

Shuler was released from prison for grand theft of a firearm, trafficking in stolen property and attempted burglary of a dwelling just five months prior to committing the Pizzano’s robbery. He faces life in prison and will be sentenced for robbery with a firearm on January 26.

Law enforcement later found that the firearm Shuler used had been taken from a friend he was living with. They recovered the gun in a shed on another person’s property.

The defense attorney argued that because there was no evidence of fingerprints on the gun, anyone could have taken it. But when law enforcement checked the serial number on the firearm Schuler used and the one that had been taken from his friend, they matched.

Assistant State Attorney Jaenea Gorman reminded jurors that Shuler told law enforcement he took the gun from his friend.

“Why do we need fingerprints or DNA to prove it? He told you where he got it,” Gorman said. “We don’t need anything else.”

In closing statements on Thursday, she told jurors Shuler’s actions leading up to the incident proved that his sole intention upon entering Pizzano’s was to rob it, to which he later confessed. But the defense claimed Shuler’s confession was forced and that he had been falsely accused.

“These aren’t statements from somebody who is falsely confessing. These are statements from somebody who was actually there,” Gorman said, urging the jury to think back to Shuler’s taped confession that was played in court.

She reminded them that Shuler remembered exactly what he told the Pizzano’s cashier when he pointed the gun at her. He even repeated it to the detective: “Give me all of the cash out of the register.”

“Nobody prompted him to say that (in the confession),” Gorman said. “The detective wasn’t suggesting the answers. He was asking, and the defendant answered.”

Leo Jackson, 56, of Bartow, was found guilty of shooting into a building and trespassing by a jury Thursday afternoon.

JURY VERDICT: Bartow man guilty of shooting into ex’s house

Leo Jackson parked his scooter in the shadows and walked toward his ex-girlfriend’s house with a loaded firearm.

Assistant State Attorney Natalie Oven holds up the firearm Leo Jackson used to shoot into his ex’s house. She also presented a shell casing and projectile to the jury as evidence.

About 11 p.m. on Dec. 24, 2015, Jackson walked around his ex’s house, yelled obscenities and shook the window air conditioning units. He then lifted his firearm and shot twice – first into the dining room window, scattering shards of glass across the room and onto the victim’s Christmas tree, and second into the siding of the house.

Jackson, 56, of Bartow, was found guilty of shooting into a building and trespassing by a jury on Thursday afternoon. Immediately following his conviction, Jackson was sentenced to 10 years in Florida State Prison by Judge Kelly Butz.

Leo Jackson, 56, of Bartow, was found guilty of shooting into a building and trespassing by a jury Thursday afternoon.

Jackson’s taped statements were played in court during the two-day trial, and in an interview with law enforcement, Jackson said there was no way he could have shot into the house because he’d been at home all evening. Police reminded him that when they arrived on scene, his scooter’s engine was warm.

Further attempts to exonerate himself included Jackson telling law enforcement he didn’t know the victim – even though he’d dated her for 10 years – claiming he had no reason to have been at her house.

But Assistant State Attorney Natalie Oven told jurors there was a reason Jackson fired shots at his ex’s home: He was upset that she’d had broken up with him and was dating another man.

The defense argued that the incident had nothing to do with a lovers’ quarrel and that his client was framed, but Oven rebutted the defense’s claims through witness testimony.

Not only did the victim recognize Jackson’s voice when he was yelling at her, a woman sitting across the street saw him park his scooter and lurk around the house before shooting into it.

ASA Oven holds up a photo of the gold scooter Jackson parked outside his ex’s house. A witness saw him drive up on it before he shot into the house.

The woman, who has known Jackson and the victim for three years and was aware of their breakup, said she found it odd that he was flitting in and out of the shadows around the house.

She said she had no doubt it was Jackson because she saw his face.

“It’s the defendant who did it,” Oven said in her closing statement Thursday. “He’s the one with the motive. He’s the one who’s angry.”

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed through ballistics that a shell casing found outside the house and a projectile recovered from the siding matched Jackson’s firearm.

“Not only did a shooting occur, but we know that it was no one other than the defendant,” Oven said. “No reasonable, logical conclusion could lead anyone to believe it was someone other than him (Jackson). The evidence points only to him.”

Wesley Booker, 26, of Lakeland.

JURY VERDICT: Lakeland man convicted for murder of rival gang member

After two and a half hours of deliberation, a jury found Wesley Booker guilty of first-degree murder.

Wesley Booker, 26, of Lakeland.

Booker, 26, of Lakeland, shot and killed Maurice Knight – a rival gang member – in Feb. of 2015. Booker was sentenced to life in prison by Judge Harb immediately following his conviction at the end of a two-week trial.

Assistant State Attorneys David Stamey and Kristie Ducharme prosecuted the case, and in closing arguments Wednesday, Stamey told jurors the situation was a “recipe for disaster” from the beginning.

“These two (Booker and Knight) had a reason not to like each other,” Stamey said.

Knight’s gang got involved in a fight with Booker’s gang at a club in Winter Haven prior to the shooting, and Stamey said, security video shows Booker throwing punches at Knight.

After the fight was broken up, both sides went outside. Shots were fired into the air with Booker’s gun by fellow gang member Quintyn Davis, who was agitated after being “beat down” in the scuffle.

Booker’s friend Quintyn Davis was “beat down” in the scuffle. When they got in the car to leave, Booker asked Davis how they should deal with the fact that they’d been beaten.

They decided to follow the other gang back to Lakeland and “figure it out as they went,” Stamey said.

Booker saw the other gang’s vehicle turn into a gas station at Havendale Boulevard and U.S. 17. Booker turned off the lights to his vehicle and rolled down the window.

During closing statements Wednesday, Assistant State Attorney David Stamey shows the jury how Wesley Booker fired the handgun at Maurice Knight from inside a vehicle. Booker was convicted of first-degree murder Wednesday and was sentenced to life in prison by Judge Harb.

As he drove by, he pointed the gun at Knight and fired.

The footage shows people duck as Knight falls into a friend’s lap.

A bullet traveled through his lungs and lodged in his heart, killing him.

In Booker’s statement to police, he claimed Davis had the gun, reached over and fired at Knight from inside the car. But evidence rebutted Booker’s version of the story – a shell casing was found on the ground at the gas station.

“Booker gave multiple versions of what happened in an attempt to desperately wiggle off the hook he found himself on,” Stamey said.

Stamey anticipated the defense would argue that Booker simply fired in Knight’s direction and that it was an “Annie Oakley shot that he couldn’t reduplicate.”

“Does that in any way take away from the fact that he accomplished exactly what he did?” Stamey asked the jurors. “The fact that it was one heck of a shot is irrelevant. He succeeded with what he attempted to do.”

Stamey told the jury it was Booker’s decisions and actions alone that led to Knight’s death.

“He hit who he was aiming at,” Stamey said. “Hold him accountable.”