BROOKSVILLE — Declaring the punishment fit the crime, a judge on Friday sentenced Jamie Lynn Tyson to 45 years in prison for his role in the brutal attack on the eccentric Hernando County man known as "the walker."
"The community needs to be protected," said Circuit Judge Stephen Rushing.
Tyson reacted to the sentence with a smirk and a quick nod of his head. His 15-year-old brother, Josh, dropped his head to his hands and his mother broke into tears outside the courtroom.
Tyson, 19, becomes the only one of three young men to receive prison time in the highly publicized 2007 attack. One teen was sent to a juvenile facility while the man one prosecutor called the ringleader walked away free.
Tyson was found guilty in April of armed robbery, conspiracy to commit armed robbery and tampering with evidence. He was acquitted on attempted murder charges but still faced life in prison.
Authorities accused Tyson and two friends of stalking and beating Kelly, 50, as he walked along State Road 50 in September 2007. They took his wallet and left him bleeding and near death in a roadside ditch.
The attack shocked residents familiar with Kelly, a mentally challenged man who for nearly a decade could be seen on his frequent treks along Hernando streets and highways. The publicity prompted the judge to move the trial to Lake County.
Anthony Hawkins, 19, who allegedly acted as the lookout, took a plea deal for a juvenile sentence in exchange for his testimony and could be released this summer. Citing a lack of evidence, the state dropped charges against Michael Vann, a 24-year-old with a lengthy criminal record whom one prosecutor believed was the instigator of the attack.
Kelly, appearing frail with half his face still concave, sat in the front row of the courtroom Friday but did not make a statement. In a letter to the judge, his brother George Kelly noted that Tyson "showed no remorse at all."
"What little (my brother) had, they took it from him," he wrote. "He's harmless and they beat him to kill him."
Outside the courtroom, George Kelly said he and his brother wanted to put the matter behind them. "Obviously we are happy with the sentence," he said. "This guy won't be doing this to anybody else anytime soon."
With the criminal case complete, George Kelly said he continues a painstaking battle with state officials from the Department of Children and Families to find a home for his brother, who can no longer care for himself and now gets lost on his walks.
John Frank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 754-6114.