Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

At sentencing in 2009 Brandon killings, victim's mother offers forgiveness

TAMPA — Esteban Merchan was just 19 when he pulled a knife on Tony Black and started stabbing him in the shoulder and back.

On Dec. 29, 2009, Merchan and 18-year-old Prentiss Jackson killed three men in a gang-related attack in the back yard of a Brandon home.

Jackson was sentenced to life in prison last year for his role.

Friday, it was Merchan's turn.

After a judge accepted the plea deal — life in prison with no chance of parole — Black's mother got to speak.

"It just hurts me to my heart that children play with guns," said Shardretta Burke, 49. "Why? … It hurts everybody."

Black was her eldest son. When he died, he left an 11-year-old brother who wondered why the doctors couldn't just take out the bullet and make his brother better.

But Tony Black, a 22-year-old man known in his church for his beautiful singing voice, was already dead.

So was Vincent Thomas, 22, fatally shot.

So was Rafael Guadalupe, 21, stabbed to death.

When Guadalupe died, his daughter was 3 weeks old.

The little girl is now almost 3 years old. She has heard about her father's love, but she'll never feel it, her mother, Demi Roberts, said Friday in court.

"At the end of the day, it will be my innocent child who hurts the most," Roberts said.

Merchan faced three counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder for what happened at 507 Oakwood Ave. in Brandon.

Prosecutors had been seeking the death penalty, but the plea agreement that Merchan accepted took that off the table. He would keep his life but spend it behind bars.

So instead of presenting evidence at a trial, a prosecutor rattled off the facts of the case:

Merchan, who lived in Kissimmee, got a ride to the Brandon home with Jackson. The pair walked to the back yard and started stabbing and shooting the three men.

They had been ordered to carry out the killings from a high-ranking member of the Bloods gang. Merchan was a member.

As they left, the pair beat up another man, Ralph Arroyo, 21, who survived. Then they threw the weapons down a storm drain.

When deputies arrived, Black and Thomas were dead, with gunshot wounds to the head and torso.

Guadalupe had 52 knife wounds.

On Friday, Merchan, a slight man who is now 22, was led away in handcuffs, certain to never see the world outside of prison again.

Shardretta Burke said she forgave him.

Burke wasn't planning to speak after the sentencing but said she wanted to say one thing.

"If the world could find a way to stop these young kids from killing each other," she said, "it would just be a miracle."

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

At sentencing in 2009 Brandon killings, victim's mother offers forgiveness 10/05/12 [Last modified: Saturday, October 6, 2012 12:08am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Helicopter, small aircraft collide at Clearwater Air Park

    News

    CLEARWATER — Two people suffered minor injuries after a helicopter and a small aircraft collided late Saturday afternoon at Clearwater Air Park, 1000 N Hercules Ave.

    Clearwater Fire Department emergency personal douse a plane with fire retardant after the plane crashed into a helicopter at Clearwater Air Park 1000 N Hercules Ave. Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017. According to Clearwater Fire two people sustained minor injuries. [Photo by Clearwater Fire Department]
  2. 4-year-old girl, man injured in Clearwater Beach boating crash

    Briefs

    A 4-year-old girl was airlifted with serious injuries after a personal watercraft she was riding on collided with a boat in the Intracoastal Waterway near Clearwater Beach just before 5 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

  3. Hernando Sheriff's Office identifies bank robber killed after chase, places 7 deputies on administrative leave

    Crime

    Authorities have identified a bank robbery suspect fatally shot by Hernando County sheriff's deputies after a wild chase Friday in which the fleeing suspect rammed several patrol cars in Brooksville.

    Scott Michael Chamberlain, 44, died after a deputy-involved shooting Friday. The Hernando County Sheriff's Office said that Chamberlaine attempted to rob a bank before taking deputies on a pursuit. (Florida Department of Corrections)
  4. No. 12 FSU, defense struggle in 27-21 loss to N.C. State

    College

    TALLAHASSEE — It's easy to blame No. 12 Florida State's 27-21 loss to North Carolina State on the injury to starting quarterback Deondre Francois or the three-week layoff because of Hurricane Irma.

    It would also be wrong.

    Florida State Seminoles wide receiver Nyqwan Murray (8) carries during the first quarter of the Florida State Seminoles game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack on September 23, 2017, at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla.  At the half, North Carolina State Wolfpack 17, Florida State Seminoles 10.
  5. Trump tells Warriors star Stephen Curry that White House visit is off

    Nba

    SOMERSET, N.J. — Stephen Curry and President Donald Trump agree on one thing: The Golden State star is not going to the White House anytime soon.

    Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry poses for photos during NBA basketball team media day Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. [Associated Press]