Saturday, June 23, 2018
News Roundup

Pinellas murderer misses a chance for freedom

LARGO — Sudan Reeder Jessee prepared for the worst as she came to a Pinellas courtroom on Monday. She told herself the man who killed her sister in 1977 would probably go free.

It wasn't the first time she traveled from Maryland to Florida seeking to keep Raymond Lee Drake behind bars. And as it turned out, it won't be the last.

"Every time I come down here, it brings it all back," said Jessee, who was 19 when her sister was murdered, and is 54 now.

Her sister, Odette Reeder, had recently moved from Maryland to Clearwater, and loved being close to the beach. One night she met a man in a lounge. Six weeks later, her unclothed body was found in a field in the Oldsmar area, her arms tied behind her back with a bra, eight stab wounds in her torso.

Drake, a Navy veteran already on parole for rape, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. And though judges and juries found him guilty, the case took a convoluted path through the legal system, culminating in the hearing on Monday.

Drake was convicted of first-degree murder in 1978 for killing Reeder, 23. He was sentenced to death, but won a new trial on appeal after the Florida Supreme Court said evidence of similar crimes should not have been allowed in the trial.

Drake was convicted again of first-degree murder in 1982, and sentenced again to death. Once again, he won a new trial.

He was found guilty again after his third murder trial in 1984, but this time he was convicted of second-degree murder, which does not carry the death penalty. Afterward, Judge Jerry Parker said he still thought death was the best sentence. But with that option off the table, he sentenced Drake to 99 years in prison.

But sometimes in the court system, 99 years passes quickly. When he was sentenced, prisoners were regularly allowed to serve about one-third of their prison sentences because of prison crowding. Prisoners now are required to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences, but because Drake was sentenced before that law, the old rules apply.

So now, more than three decades later, Drake's prison sentence is over. Most prisoners would walk free. But because of Drake's history of sex offenses, he has been detained under the Jimmy Ryce act.

Under that law, certain sexual offenders can be detained even after finishing their criminal sentences. If they are found to have psychological abnormalities that make them likely to commit sex crimes again, they can be given mental health treatment and detained until they are no longer considered dangerous.

Expert psychologists argued on both sides Monday. For the state, Peter Bursten said he had given Drake the relatively rare diagnosis of "sexual sadist," and also called Drake a psychopath. Those aren't conditions you grow out of, so Drake should not be freed, Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett argued.

For the defense, Chris Robison said Drake is a sexual sadist by his history, but he did not diagnose him as a psychopath. He noted Drake's age, 62, and said men that age almost never re-offend. Attorney Jeanine Cohen also noted that Drake has arthritis and has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Pinellas Judge Dorothy Vaccaro sided with the state, finding Drake has an abnormal condition that might lead him to offend again. Drake, wearing jeans and a gray polo shirt over a long-sleeve white shirt, said nothing.

For Jessee, it was a feeling of immense relief. For now. Because as Drake receives treatment at the Florida Civil Commitment Center in Arcadia, there is a chance a doctor will conclude that he no longer suffers from the psychological abnormality that makes him dangerous. That would prompt another hearing.

But for now, she said she's grateful for "another year he won't hurt anybody else."

Times Staff Writer Curtis Krueger can be reached at [email protected] or(727) 893-8232.

Comments
First step for Hillsborough schools facing biggest challenges: Hire more teachers

First step for Hillsborough schools facing biggest challenges: Hire more teachers

TAMPA — As chief of diversity for the Hillsborough County School District, Minerva Spanner-Morrow tries to keep her expectations realistic."We want the best of the best and I know that’s very difficult," she told principals last week as they prepared...
Published: 06/23/18
Rodney Page’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

Rodney Page’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

1. SS Willy Adames had a nice night, and there appear to be many more in his future. He had two hits, an RBI and an inning-ending leaping catch on a line drive by Didi Gregorius in the fifth.2. DH C.J. Cron needs to shake things up. Take a different ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Marc Anthony pays a visit to the Trop

Marc Anthony pays a visit to the Trop

By Allana BarefieldTimes Staff WriterST. PETERSBURG — Latin pop star Marc Anthony visited Tropicana Field on Friday to see his beloved Yankees play the Rays.Anthony spent nearly an hour on the field before the game as fans and players surrounde...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Rays journal: Daniel Robertson’s return crowds up infield

Rays journal: Daniel Robertson’s return crowds up infield

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays reinstated INF Daniel Robertson from the 10-day disabled list (left hamstring strain). To make room, RHP Austin Pruitt was sent to Triple-A Durham."It's out of my mind. I don't think about (the hamstring) when I'm bend...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Brady Singer, Gators eliminated by Arkansas at CWS

Brady Singer, Gators eliminated by Arkansas at CWS

Times wiresOMAHA, Neb.  —Defending champion Florida failed to win a third straight elimination game, losing to Arkansas 5-2 Friday night and departing the College World Series.The Gators (49-21) had to win to force a rematch. The Razorback...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Rays hang on for a 2-1 win over Yankees

Rays hang on for a 2-1 win over Yankees

ST. PETERSBURG – Many times this season the Rays' strategy of opening the game with a short reliever and using the bullpen to finish hasn't had much success.Friday wasn't one of those nights.A total of six pitchers held the Yankees and their va...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Rowdies fall to Penn FC

Rowdies fall to Penn FC

By Darek SharpTimes CorrespondentST. PETERSBURG — For the second time this season, Penn FC got two goals from a former Rowdie that led the way to a win over Tampa Bay.Lucky Mkosana doubled his season total Friday in a comeback 2-1 win before an...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Ronald Darby’s friend: Jameis Winston got into second Uber ride alone

Ronald Darby’s friend: Jameis Winston got into second Uber ride alone

New details emerged Friday night about the Uber ride in Arizona in March 2016 that led to Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston's three-game suspension to start the upcoming season, including the fact that Winston was in a car that night with a former Vand...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Tampa boy, 14, shot on bike, police asking for help

Tampa boy, 14, shot on bike, police asking for help

TAMPA — Police want to know who shot 14-year-old De’Nico Thomas after a night of playing video games.Thomas was at a friend’s home Wednesday night and walking home when Tampa police said he was shot, resulting in life-threatening injuries.As he faces...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Carlton: That snake-like thing living under your refrigerator? It’s a skink. Welcome to Florida

Carlton: That snake-like thing living under your refrigerator? It’s a skink. Welcome to Florida

At first I thought it was a snake.Because wouldn’t it be typically Florida to come home and find a snake poking its nose out from under your stove? Which wouldn’t be a problem or anything. I would just have to move out is all.But no, the creature tha...
Updated: 10 hours ago