TAMPA — Derrick Cullins stabbed two men so many times, they shed 4 liters of blood.
One of them was his brother.
Cullins hid their bodies in the woods and lied to the mother of the second man, his brother's friend, when she came looking for her son. She had to wait 10 months until he was found, a skeleton.
A jury found Cullins guilty of second-degree murder in February, after hearing no motive, but three weeks' worth of evidence, that Cullins ripped out carpet and repainted walls but could not hide the blood on his shoes or the bite on his chest.
More than three years after his crime, at his sentencing Friday, Cullins got a chance to apologize.
He didn't take it.
"I did not make these egregious crimes, these heinous acts," he said, calling the deaths of his victims "unfortunate."
"Of course, they're in heaven now and that's, uh, a comforting thought," he said. "The actual murderer, I believe is, uh, is going to hell. And will reside there for eternity.
"And, uh, I'll just have to, uh, to weather the storm.
"And I pray that things get well for everyone."
Cullins' attorney, Robert Mactavish, told the judge the 31-year-old Cullins was a Navy veteran awarded two medals before he was discharged for reasons other than honorable, because of alcohol issues.
Mactavish said that Cullins' mother, also the mother of his half brother and 21-year-old victim Carl Walters, wanted mercy for her son. She had lost one and was facing the loss of another. He expected her to be in the courtroom Friday, but she was not.
The mother of victim Ryan Darkins Davis was, along with his family and friends.
He was 20, a student leader at Hillsborough Community College who wanted to be a police officer.
"Ryan was always looking at what others didn't have to always help," his mother, Robin Harris, said. "I remember when a student that was relocated from Hurricane Katrina didn't have clothes and Ryan came home and asked me to buy him clothes.
"He kept my household alive. Now it seems like everything is dead … Ryan would say forgive you," the mother told Cullins. "But I haven't found in my heart to forgive you as of yet."
Cullins' lawyer asked the judge to impose a sentence of 40 years.
But Circuit Judge Emmett Lamar Battles opted for life.
"You call this unfortunate?" he asked Cullins. "These are brutal crimes. You committed them. Two young men are dead."
The defendant hung his head.
Outside the courtroom, Ryan Davis' family and friends said they were satisfied with the sentence. His aunt, Nada Harrison, also had hoped for an apology. She said she hopes that one day Cullins comes to take responsibility for what he did.
"For his sake."
Alexandra Zayas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3354.