ST. PETERSBURG — It's been one year since Elaine Speights lost her daughter.
Anastasia Boyd, 24, was shot and killed March 24, 2010. Authorities said her 18-year-old boyfriend, Larry Reed, pulled the trigger.
At the time, unknown to many of her family members, Boyd was four months pregnant with Reed's child.
Yet as the anniversary of Boyd's death neared, Speights got some unsettling news.
The case against Reed could be in peril.
Last month, a judge granted Reed's release from jail on $75,000 bail and told prosecutors in court that they were going to have a tough time proving second-degree murder.
At first, Speights said she felt fear. Then she got angry.
"I just can't understand how he spent a whole year in jail and just got out," she said. "It makes no sense to me."
Reed told authorities different stories about how his girlfriend was shot. He first reported the incident as a suicide. Then he admitted to investigators he shot Boyd but said it was an accident.
Hours after the shooting, Reed was booked into the Pinellas County Jail and held without bail on a charge of second-degree murder.
He is scheduled to go to trial in June.
On Feb. 24, lawyers for both sides met in court to discuss Reed's status.
His public defender told Pinellas County Judge Donald E, Horrox about an offer for Reed to plead guilty on a manslaughter charge in exchange for five years in prison. The prosecution has not yet responded.
The defense also asked Horrox to set bail for Reed at $20,000. The reason? Tests showed gunshot residue was not found on Reed, now 19. It was, however, found on Boyd's body.
The judge asked for an explanation.
Assistant State Attorney Christie Ellis told the judge that gunshot residue cannot say whether a person shot a gun, but rather can reveal if a person was in the vicinity of a gun being shot off at the time.
"Gunshot residue can be spread about wherever a gun went off," Ellis said during the hearing, referencing a report by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. "They can't say for sure that just because someone has gunshot residue on them that they were the person that shot the weapon."
Ellis also told the judge Boyd's wound wasn't consistent with being self-inflicted or close-contact. She said Reed may have wiped his hands before the test was taken, and she balked at the notion Reed should be allowed a chance to get out of jail since he faces a charge that could carry a life term.
Still, the judge said he wasn't comfortable keeping Reed's bail at zero.
"It concerns me that he didn't have any gunshot residue on him but she did on her, even though it may be explained by the fact that he wiped it off himself and it's only positive on her and not in any specific quantity," Horrox said.
Horrox then set bail at $75,000 and said Reed would have to live with his grandmother, follow a 9 p.m. curfew, and could not be around guns.
"My sense for it is unless something comes back from ballistics more definitive … the case has got its work cut out for it … if it's going to obtain a conviction for a second," Horrox said.
The next morning, Reed was released from the Pinellas County Jail.
• • •
Speights said she didn't learn the news until weeks later, when someone from the neighborhood asked whether she knew Reed was free.
Speights said no one notified her about the possibility of Reed getting out of jail, but officials dispute that. They said they sent a letter to Speights on Feb. 15 informing her of the upcoming bail hearing. They also said she hadn't been keeping her contact information current.
Speights acknowledged she was out of town at the time of the hearing, got a new cell phone and hadn't been staying at the address listed on file because of a house fire.
Regardless, she said she worries about getting justice for her firstborn, who left behind two daughters herself.
Speights, 46, cares for 4-year-old Zaniah full time, and has shared custody of Boyd's other daughter, 7-year-old Aryahna.
"How do you tell a 4-year-old that mom is not coming back?" Speights said. "They don't understand. It's been a battle for us to get through this. We miss her tremendously."
Boyd was the eldest of three children.
She graduated from St. Petersburg High School in 2003 and had enrolled in Florida Career College shortly before her death, intending to become a nurse, her family said.
Speights said it's been a struggle to move forward. She said she doesn't want to think about the possibility of Reed not returning to jail.
"It's been a day-by-day process for me," she said. "I haven't even ordered her headstone. I couldn't bring myself to do it."
But she knows what she wants to put on it: Loving daughter, mother and sister.