Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Dontae Morris gets life sentence for murder outside Cotton Club

TAMPA — Dontae Morris' mother did not ask for leniency. With a conviction of first-degree murder, her son faced a certainty of life in prison.

Still, Selecia Watson wanted to speak during his sentencing Friday morning. She wanted to tell the family of Rodney Jones, the man her son killed outside the Cotton Club in 2010, that she was sorry.

"They have lost someone they care deeply about," Watson said. "For that, I apologize from the bottom of my heart."

Morris looked away as his mother spoke. She kept her address brief, noting there were more trials ahead.

Circuit Judge William Fuente then sentenced Morris to life in prison with no possibility of parole. The most notorious man in Tampa will not rejoin society, no matter what happens in his remaining four murder trials.

Morris is accused of killing five men, including two Tampa police officers, during a two-month span in 2010. This was the first murder trial.

After deliberating for about five hours last week, a jury found Morris guilty of shooting Jones on May 31, 2010.

Three years was enough time for Jones' sisters to find forgiveness.

It was enough time for smiles to return to the widows of slain Tampa police officers Jeffrey Kocab and David Curtis. The women sat together in court Friday.

Sara Kocab, who gave birth to a stillborn daughter in July 2010, a month after she lost her husband, is remarried and pregnant. Her baby is due next month.

After three years of court hearings, Morris' mother approached Jones' sisters outside the courtroom and gave each an embrace.

The two sisters, like Watson, are open about their Christian faith. Daphne Stephens and her sister Lasonja Houston told the judge that prayer has helped them forgive Morris. They also pray for Morris' family — and for Morris, they said.

Stephens said regardless of what Morris admits to publicly, she hopes he is honest with himself, with God and with his young son.

"Because you don't want a young man growing up with the impression that law enforcement did his father wrong, that the justice system did him wrong," Stephens said.

That could start a cycle of bitterness and resentment, she said.

Morris did not speak Friday. Judge Fuente said he understood; there are pending murder cases.

The next one could arrive in the fall.

After Morris was sentenced, the lawyers and Fuente discussed scheduling the trial on the police officers' deaths for November.

Kocab and Curtis were shot at close range during a traffic stop on June 29, 2010. The murder was captured on a police dash camera, and police quickly named Morris as their suspect. He was arrested after a four-day manhunt.

Morris faces the death penalty in that case.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3433.

Dontae Morris gets life sentence for murder outside Cotton Club 03/22/13 [Last modified: Friday, March 22, 2013 11:35pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 'Road to Nowhere' is back: Next phase of Suncoast Parkway coming

    Roads

    Despite intense public opposition and dubious traffic projections, the Florida Department of Transportation has announced that construction of the toll road known as "Suncoast 2" is expected to start in early 2018.

    The Suncoast Parkway ends at U.S. 98 just south of Citrus County. For years residents have opposed extending the toll road, a project dubbed the "Suncoast 2" into Citrus County. But state officials recently announced that the Suncoast 2 should start construction in early 2018. [Stephen J. Coddington  |  TIMES]
  2. Jameis Winston's hardest lesson: He can't always save the day

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Ever wonder what in the world goes through Jameis Winston's mind when he tries to fit the ball in a keyhole as he is being dragged to the turf like he was during Thursday night's 12-8 preseason win over the Jaguars?

    Jameis Winston, left, tries to hang on to the ball as Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler tries to strip it from him.
  3. Despite pain, woman in court faces ex-boyfriend who lit her on fire

    Criminal

    PORT RICHEY

    Sheron Pasco sat in the wheelchair as her mother pushed it toward the man in the orange jail suit.

    Sheron Pasco, 39, relies on the help of her mother, Tranda Webb, 62, as she recovers from the burns covering her body..
  4. Florida starter under center still under wraps

    College

    GAINESVILLE — With two weeks before Florida opens its season against Michigan, the Gators' three-way quarterback battle remains wide open.

    Luke Del Rio, right, is in the mix to start against Michigan in the season opener … as is Malik Zaire and Feleipe Franks.
  5. A sports rout on Wall Street

    Retail

    NEW YORK — Sporting goods retailers can't shake their losing streak.