TAMPA — Andre Watkins, known in the Plantation subdivision of Carrollwood as "the crazy man" who angrily paced his front yard, stared daggers and sometimes brandished a gun, was given life in prison Thursday for a 2010 rampage that left two men wounded and a young woman dead.
In pleading guilty to first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder, Watkins, 55, avoided a death penalty trial. He told Hillsborough Circuit Judge Kimberly Fernandez he suffers from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but understood his guilty plea.
Motives for why Watkins armed himself with a .45 semiautomatic were unclear — he knew some of his victims, but not others.
At the sentencing Thursday morning, Dreama Aracich, the mother of 19-year-old Alyssa Aracich, fatally shot because she happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, told Watkins, "You lost your humanity when you murdered my child."
Alyssa was the first victim the evening of Feb. 12, 2010.
According to Hillsborough sheriff's investigators, Watkins had accosted an acquaintance, Geovanni Suarez, and forced him at gunpoint to drive him to an address on Chadbourne Drive, where Alyssa and two men were in a car getting ready to go to McDonald's.
Watkins got out of Suarez's truck and started shooting. The two men ran and survived, but Alyssa died in the back seat. By all accounts, the bullet wasn't meant for her.
Watkins then ordered Suarez to drive him back to his car, telling him, "You're lucky to be alive." Watkins released Suarez and drove his own car to his mother's house on Wingate Drive.
From there, Watkins drove his mother's car to Brightside Drive where he shot Areil Love, 27, in the doorway of his home.
Investigators said Watkins was looking for Love's father, with whom he had been feuding.
Then, Watkins drove to a BP station on W Linebaugh Avenue, where he shot the clerk, Akbar Alwani, 57.
Watkins later confronted Bruce Demetrius Jackson, 32, in his front yard on Briar Grove Circle and started shooting. Jackson ran and escaped harm.
In addition to the life sentences for murder and attempted murder, Judge Fernandez also imposed life sentences for kidnapping and armed burglary of a dwelling.
Alyssa's mother told him, "You will spend the rest of your days in a small box."
John Barry can be reached at (813) 226-3383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.