LARGO — After three hours of deliberation, jurors found a St. Petersburg man guilty of manslaughter Thursday in the shooting death of his pregnant girlfriend.
"I thank God they made the right decision," said Derrick Pollock, whose daughter Anastasia Boyd was 24 when she was killed.
Her mother Carolyn Boyd followed a judge's instructions to remain silent as the verdict was read, but she could not restrain herself from pumping both fists overhead. Wearing a T-shirt that commemorated her daughter's "2nd Birthday in Heaven," she later said, "Justice was served. I got justice."
Prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed that Larry Jay Reed did not intend to shoot Boyd on March 24, 2010, at 2211 Anastasia Way S in St. Petersburg's Lakewood Estates.
Much of the information about what happened in the house that day came from Reed himself. He spoke to 911 operators and later to a detective, and his story changed.
When a 911 operator asked if the person who shot Boyd was still nearby, he said he didn't know. Later, he said "she was messing with it," apparently referring to the gun.
Reed told then-St. Petersburg police Detective Gary Gibson that about 20 minutes before the shooting, he had jokingly aimed the gun at Boyd while she talked on the telephone. She told him to stop.
Reed also told the detective that Boyd was twirling the gun around in her hand, and that's when it went off. He then offered an even different version.
Reed told Gibson he carried the gun with him as he and Boyd were about to shower. It went off, he said, as he unloaded it.
This account prompted vigorous legal arguments from prosecutors Christie Ellis and Doug Ellis, and assistant public defenders Lori Mahin and John Swisher.
Under Florida law, a person can be found guilty of manslaughter if they "intentionally committed an act or acts that caused the death" of the victim.
So what was Reed's intentional act? Attempting to unload his handgun, which was pointed just 18 to 24 inches away, said prosecutor Christie Ellis.
Mahin said it didn't make sense to claim Reed was being reckless because he chose to unload the weapon.
"Making a gun safer is not careless … that is the opposite of being careless," she said.
A person also can be found guilty of manslaughter if they are so reckless they show "culpable negligence." Mahin said that would apply in a case where someone played Russian roulette or wildly waved a gun. That's much different from someone accidentally discharging a gun while unloading it.
But Assistant State Attorney Doug Ellis said pointing a firearm at someone only inches away is reckless.
Doug Ellis, no relation to his fellow prosecutor, said Reed chose to handle the firearm, even though he had no training in how to use the .32-caliber handgun he said he found in a vacant apartment: "Even an untrained person knows "you don't point the gun at somebody."
In an unusual twist, jurors asked if they could view the gun in the jury room and asked that a black plastic tie be removed from around the gun.
Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Michael Andrews granted the request and sent a deputy into the room to supervise. The judge will sentence Reed at a later date.