TAMPA — As a young boy, Jason Edward Flores survived a child's worst nightmare when he was abducted, brutally raped and left for dead.
The 11-year-old's road to manhood continued to be anything but smooth.
His long history of run-ins with the law, which included drug convictions and prison time for burglary, ended Wednesday as Flores was sentenced to 25 years for two counts of attempted second-degree murder and home invasion robbery.
Flores, 28, seemed calm as he pleaded guilty moments before Hillsborough Circuit Judge Robert Foster sentenced him to the mandatory minimum.
Earlier in the court proceedings, a different image emerged as Flores tried to place his shackled hands around his mother and cried in her arms.
"Sitting next to my son was one of the worst feelings of my life," said Judy Cornett, who called the St. Petersburg Times from a bed at Tampa General Hospital's emergency room.
Cornett, 47, collapsed in court as bailiffs escorted her back to her seat. Paramedics were called and carried her out on a stretcher.
Since Flores' abduction and rape in 1992, Cornett has dedicated her life to battling sex crimes. She founded Safety Zone Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that teaches kids to protect themselves against sexual predators.
She also coaches parents who find themselves in the media spotlight when their children become victims of child predators.
Cornett aided Mark Lunsford, when his 9-year-old daughter, Jessica, was abducted and killed in Homosassa in 2005. And she housed and clothed Susan Schorpen during the trial for the man convicted in the 2004 abduction and murder in Sarasota of Schorpen's 11-year-old daughter, Carlie Brucia.
Cornett said she's in the process of writing a book, calling her son's prison sentence "more fuel for me to help other people."
Flores was sentenced Wednesday on charges stemming from a home invasion that occurred June 26, 2008.
Prosecutors said Flores and two co-defendants — Matthew Edward Wilsky and Kristen Marie Mangum — entered a home in a neighborhood west of Busch Gardens to take prescription drugs.
The trio struggled with residents Terry and Lora Holmes. Prosecutors said Flores fired a shotgun into the Holmes' bedroom, striking Lora in the hand and Terry in the side. Both survived, but Lora Holmes is partly paralyzed in her hand, prosecutors said.
The three fled to a Pasco County hotel with about $1,000 in cash and pills they had stolen from the Holmeses.
The victims identified Flores from a police photo packet and officers eventually arrested all three.
Cornett said her son had begun to clean up his life before he met Mangum, who Cornett described as a "drug buddy."
Five years ago, by fluke, Flores came face to face at the Orient Road Jail with Kevin Kinder, the man who had raped him. Flores attacked him, but prosecutors dropped those charges.
Cornett said Flores never had proper psychological treatment after his rape and abduction and often self-medicated.
"I can't blame 100 percent on it, but I can definitely say it has been a strong contributing factor," she said about her son's rape and lack of proper assistance.
As she sat next to Flores in court, Cornett said she promised to be there when he's released.
"I told him I was going to continue to fight for him and that he's my baby and I love him," Cornett said. "He said, 'Thank you, Mommy,' and 'I love you.' "
Times researcher Will Gorham contributed to this story. Kevin Graham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3433.