Wednesday, January 17, 2018
News Roundup

After two men are found guilty in Pasco robbery for killing clerk, a legacy

NEW PORT RICHEY — Patty Morris promised justice to a dying man.

The men who did this to you will pay, she told Danny Foster, 61, as he lay hospitalized in a coma.

On Friday, she got her wish.

Russell Lane, 32, and Adam Moyer, 20, were both found guilty of first-degree murder last week for a 7-Eleven robbery on Jan. 10, 2012, around 1:30 a.m. — a crime that led to Foster's death.

"It feels like the weight of the world has been lifted," Morris, 50, said after the final verdict. "I promised Danny on his deathbed that I would be here to see it through. And I promised his dying wife, too."

In court, jurors watched a video of two men barging into the 7-Eleven store at 9039 Ridge Road, both wearing hooded sweatshirts. One had his face covered, one did not. The masked man went behind the counter and demanded money from a clerk named Thomas Kent, netting $33. Lane, with his face uncovered, tussled with Foster, who was three months away from retirement. It happened quickly — one second they fought, then a push, and Foster flew backward. His head hit the door handle and then concrete. He never got up.

Lane and Moyer were tried together, but Lane pleaded guilty mid-trial. He watched jurors' faces while they watched the video, and according to his lawyer, he said, "I've had enough."

He had planned to tell the jury that it wasn't Moyer with him that day, but he was never called as a witness.

Because of his previous criminal convictions, Circuit Judge Mary Handsel gave him life in prison without the possibility of parole.

During the trial, Moyer's attorney Dennis Watson said the man in the video with the covered face was not his client. Instead of calling witnesses, he asked the jury to look at the color of Moyer's eyes. Kent testified that Moyer's eyes were blue. Clearly, Watson said, his client's eyes were hazel.

The jury deliberated just 45 minutes.

Because he was 17 at the time of the offense, Moyer cannot be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole like his codefendant was. His sentencing is scheduled for April 4.

Moyer did not react when the verdict was read. Morris, though, cried openly.

She and her husband, Ben, and son, Ben II, were an extended family to Foster and his wife, Sonja. The Fosters, she said, wanted to have kids of their own but never could. So they sort of adopted Morris' son. They acted as an extra set of parents — loving, but also with an eye for shaping the teenager into a man.

"My son would go over and do all the chores around house," she said. "He'd go up on roof and fix the screen and help with the pool."

In 2011, Morris lost her husband to Legionnaire's disease. She was left to raise Ben on her own. Foster stepped in and promised he'd take care of them.

Two months later, Foster was dead. Through the pain, Morris and Sonja Foster commiserated daily, to help patch the wounds and soften the aches.

"Both of us were going through the same thing. It was absolute heartbreak," Morris said. "When you love someone for so many years and for so long and they're not there, what do you do?"

Three months later, Sonja Foster succumbed to terminal colon cancer, and Morris was alone again. But she kept her promise. She went to every court hearing, every month, for two years straight. The Fosters will never come back, she knew. But she could wrest satisfaction from seeing the two men responsible for Danny's death pay for the crime.

Outside the courtroom, she smiled. She was going to go back to the neighborhood with good news.

What's more, Foster left behind something special for Ben. In his will, he made sure Morris and her son were taken care of.

"Danny loved my son and my husband and I so much that in his will he left my son a legacy for his future," she said. "He can go to the college of his choice."

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